March, 2012


29
Mar 12

Simply, Great.

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Hi, good to see you again.

You’re probably wondering who the person is in the picture.  You’ll meet him in a moment.  He is an unassuming fellow who is simply, great.  I am sure that he was not perfect… but great none-the-less.

Those of you who have read my blog for a while know that I am touched and moved by simple things and noble things.

In our high tech, grab the brass ring, take the world by storm, get out of my way world we live in; the simple things are easily pushed to the side to accommodate more impressive things.

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We have, I fear, confused power with greatness.
- Stewart Udall

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I admire people who have successfully fought the current of our world and become great in simple ways.

About five blog entries back (Garbage In – Treasure Out) I talked about a fellow by the name of Ervin Sievers from Clarkson, Michigan who knew who he was and was proud of what he did… a trash hauler.  He caught my eye when I read a newspaper story about Ervin wanting a garbage truck to be a part of his funeral procession.

Well, it happened again.  I ran across a simple person who has a lot to say to us.

I was digging through some of my old files and ran across an article I had used in some meetings with customers a few years back.  The 1997 USA Today article was a human interest story about a fellow by the name of Carlos Wilson, a doorman at the Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach, VA.

The article featured Carlos because he had worked six decades without a sick day.  The not having a sick day is nice but not the reason his life touched me.  What touched me at the time was how he went about his work.

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Side Note: Not having a sick day is like having perfect attendance in school – admirable but not the thing that deserves a hero button.

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Since the article was fifteen years old I thought I would Google Carlos Wilson to see if he would show up.  I’m glad I did.

The top search was an article from August, 2011 in The Virginian-Pilot.  The story by Kristen Davis was about Carlos Wilson’s (pictured above) death at age 89.

This article reinforced the first article I read (1997 USA Today) and expanded on a life that finished well.

Please allow me to share a few excerpts from the article.

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“The lessons of Carlos Wilson were elementary and absolute:

  • Remember people’s names.
  • Show up on time, and you’re 90 percent ahead of everyone else.
  • Do more than you’re paid to do. One day it will pay off.
  • Respect is worth more than money.
  • Lies beget lies. Tell the truth about everything; deal with it and move on.
  • Life ought to be something to live, not fear.
  • Slow down.
  • Smile.

“Within minutes of learning of Wilson’s death Friday at the age of 89, Daniel Batchelor thought of those words. He went to work for the man at The Cavalier Hotel 35 summers ago and stayed on, forgoing college. Wilson offered him all the education he’d ever need – about the hospitality business and the way to live life.

“Just two months shy of his 90th birthday, Wilson had yet to fully retire after 73 years on the job. And Batchelor, now president and general manager of the beach resort, expected him at work the day of his death.

“Wilson came to The Cavalier in 1938. He’d washed dishes, maintained the grounds, cleared tables, waited on guests, worked as the food and beverage manager and become director of guest services.

“He was deeply spiritual, and taught his daughters to say something uplifting whenever they spoke to someone. You can’t get fresh water and salt water out of the same faucet, Wilson told them. Have a silent tongue and a listening ear and you will learn something.

“He sewed up holes in his socks and holes in his undershirts and drove cars until the floorboard rusted clean through – then put wood over the hole and told passengers to watch their step when they climbed inside.

“‘When it came time for us to go to college,(his daughter said) dad had the money.’”

“One week before he died, Wilson went to work, and Batchelor sought him out, just as he always did.

“‘My dear friend’, Wilson said to him, and the two embraced.

“Batchelor would not see him again. On Friday, he spelled out these words on the marquee: “In loving memory of Mr. Carlos Wilson 73 years of service.” Then he went back to work.

“I know Carlos, in all his wisdom, would tell us, ‘You have to take care of those guests. I’m fine,’” he said.

So Batchelor did.”

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Millions of people have attained a higher social status and greater financial success than Carlos Wilson.  But few can match the life he lived.

I don’t know about you, but Carlos Wilson inspires and challenges me.

I can’t think of many things I would want more than to be… simply, great.

See you Monday.

Ciao


26
Mar 12

Saucy or Syrupy?

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OK, my venting is over.  I am back to the lovable me again.

Usually I recommend that people go back and read old blog entries, but in this case… it’s not worth your effort.

Anyway, if you read it you might get all riled up and someone would have to sedate you.  I want to save you from the embarrassment.

I promise to be more genteel today.

Humm… genteel doesn’t become me either.  For some reason the thought of being genteel makes me nauseous.

So, I’ll just be me… to your chagrin I’m sure.

As you can see from my writing thus far, I’m torn.  I don’t like being a venting angry person and I don’t want to be too loveable and genteel.

If I am really honest I’m generally a very nice person.  Historically, probably too nice.

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I was like one of those nauseatingly nice children. I was very, very well behaved and boring.
- Helena Bonham Carter

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Yes, that probably describes it… nice but boring.

Don’t get me wrong, nice is a good thing – a very good thing.  But if not careful the tendency is that if a person is nice they are vanilla.  I want to be nice but I don’t want to be vanilla.

The more I think about it, I want nice with spunk and personality.  I have no idea what flavor that would be but for sure it’s not vanilla.  By the way, I would appreciate any flavor suggestions.

Some people think that if you’re nice you can’t win.  You’re a loooossser!

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Nice guys finish last.

- Leo Durocher

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That’s not accurate at all.  If Leo’s statement is true then it means that only mean people finish first.  You mustn’t confuse nice with being non-competitive.

Also you must make sure you are playing the same game and that you have the same definition of “win”.

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Nice guys may appear to finish last, but usually they’re running a different race.

- Ken Blanchard, The Power of Ethical Management

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Remember… I am a fan… a big fan of being nice.  I even try to live by the motto of There’s always time to be nice.

But if we are not careful, nice can cross a line.

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The difference is too nice – Where ends the virtue or begins the vice.
- Alexander Pope

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That’s interesting… nice as a vice, not a virtue.

If someone is too nice they may be perceived as being a person who stands for nothing or will not fight for anything.

So this begs some interesting questions.  Are you willing to fight for something?  If you do fight for something, do you have to be nasty and mean to fight?

To me the answers are simple… Yes and No… in that order.

I feel pretty good with this.  I don’t like to fight but I know what I believe and can take stands pretty forcibly when needed.

So I guess I am a self described nice person.

I would like to think that I am a saucy nice not a syrupy nice.

How would you describe yourself?

See you Thursday.


22
Mar 12

Double, Double Toil & Trouble

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Welcome back.

Sorry, but today is a vent day.  Those of you who read me regularly know that venting is not my thing.

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Side note: My wife read the draft of this blog and said that I sound really angry.  After reading it I guess I do sound angrier than I am.

But since I’m too lazy to soften it, I ask you to please read this with your indoor voice and not your outside voice.

Ok, now to the angry blather of a blog writer.

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But I have to do something or my head will explode.  I don’t know about you but the news media makes me crazy.  And this is especially true during an election cycle.

Don’t worry; I am not going to talk politics.

When it comes to politicians and the media it doesn’t matter where you happen to nest on the political spectrum… they all are the same.

Somehow they believe they are the only ones who have a handle on the truth and the big picture while we, the public, are naïve hapless children who don’t understand important stuff.

It is sort of like when you were a child and the parents were talking in hushed tones about “adult” stuff.  Invariably one of us kids would innocently ask a question about what they were talking about and the response would be universally the same.

First there would be a quick irritated glance with the, don’t bother me kid look.  And immediately these words would pop out their mouths, “Not now (insert name), you wouldn’t understand.”

With that said they would just as quickly turn back around and reengage in the conversation meant only for those who understand such things and have the maturity and insight for loftier matters.

The attitude by the media and politicians that we children do not understand is just the beginning.  This is the base or foundation for a poisonous witches brew.

All you need are three other ingredients to complete the recipe that fills the cauldron with a toxic cocktail of information for the public to consume.

First you have politicians who feel they hold the scepter of truth and possess the only view of the world.  To really spice it up all you need is to throw in egos and lust for power… of which there is an ample supply.

Secondly, you have the media (they of sufficient insight and intellect) who believe that we children cannot make sense of all the politicians’ puffery.

Therefore only they can interpret such wisdom and insights and must feed us the political and social information in a manner that we can understand on our level.

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All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.

- Will Rogers

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And finally we must add the final element that whirls all the poisonous components into a frothy mess… SPIN.

We never get anything straight from anyone… there is always spin.

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Don’t confuse the issue with facts.

- Me

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We all know that anyone can tell any story by choosing select facts.  The politicians and media types are spin masters.

Here lies the saddest part of the story.  I get the feeling that they glory, gloat, brag, puff up, and relish in a well spun story more than the revelation of truth and reality.

I have every confidence in the American people.  I believe fully that if given real uncluttered information we can make wise and good decisions.

Yes, as you can see I am venting.  It gripes my butt when all of these politicians and media types treat us like children.

I think I’ll just go in the corner and pout for a while.

See you Monday.


19
Mar 12

Forced, Fake or Fabulous?

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Hi… me again.

If you have been reading my blog any length of time at all you know that I love a good quote.

I am impressed when someone can make a simple twist on words and capture a powerful thought.

I consider a quote particularly good if it causes me pause, I tilt my head in curiosity like a dog hearing a strange noise, and hear myself automatically go humm as I ponder the meaning.

The quote that tilted my head today was the following.

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You laugh at me because I am different, but I laugh at you because you are all the same.

- Jonathan Davis

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Hummm…?

Now this quote may not trip your trigger at all.  You too may have liked the quote or you could be just sitting there in the blue glow of your computer going huh? instead of Humm.

If you’re going huh?, that’s completely ok.  The fact is, there are quotes that strike you as brilliant that would make my head implode.

That’s the wonderful beauty of our world… we’re different… and thank goodness.

There is something deeper we need to take a closer look at.  The quote is only half the learning.  The real insight comes with the natural questions that follow.

Why does this quote move me?  What about the message strikes me?

This is where the gold is found.

For me, the quote strikes an important chord … that of being ordinary.  I don’t want to be ordinary.

I want to be different… just like everyone else.

I’m not trying to be funny with the last statement, just trying make a point.  I do believe it is important that we find who we are and be okay with the fact that it may mean we are a bit different.

I find it kind of amusing that there are those kids who shy away from what they consider to be the boring mainstream because they desire to be unique and end up all looking the same.

That is not a judgment about them or the position they choose, I am just making the point that we all fall into groups that have similarities.

I have a pretty good feel for who and what I am.  And yes, I like to be different.

But if you saw me walking down the street I wouldn’t necessarily stand out from the crowd… except of course for my devilish good looks, boyish charm and Statue of David physique.

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Side Note: When my wife reads the last sentence she will fall off her chair laughing hysterically… because I never go walking on the street.

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It gets messy when people have no idea who they are or what they believe.  If not careful they just end up flowing with the stream they’re around them that has the strongest current.

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You got to be careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.

-         Yogi Berra

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So the next time you read a quote and it stops you… be willing to take a closer look at the “why”.  You’ll learn a lot about yourself.

If you are honest with the answer to your questions you will find out if you are forced, fake or simply fabulous.

See you on Thursday.

Ciao.


15
Mar 12

Buried Treasure

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Hi, thanks for hanging out with me for a while.

I have been reflecting on my last blog entry and I felt the need to press in a little further on the impact one can have by bringing dignity to the menial.

I still think some of you out there are thinking that I am making more of this than it deserves… maybe, but I don’t think so.  There is something here our world needs to hear.

If you didn’t read the last blog I encourage you to scroll down the page and take a quick look at the story of a garbage man.

Ervin Sievers was a man who elevated a menial task… brought honor to what most people consider the worst of jobs.

In the sentence above I was going to say, “Ervin Sievers was an average person who…”.  But I decided against it.

He may have been seen as average (even below average) by society’s standards and uppity notion of what one should aspire to.

But in the bigger things in life… he was anything but average.

What’s interesting to me, and most telling, is the fact that here we are fourteen years after Ervin’s death, in an obscure blog talking about his hard work and pride in what he did with his all too short life.

There are literally millions of people who have died that were significantly more powerful and wealthy yet have not been an inspiration for a blog entry.  They have taught us no lessons.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are millions of people who work hard and have pride in what they do.  But there are few… very, very few… who elevate and dignify a menial task (that most see as being beneath them) by taking pride in their duties and doing it well.

I am no different than anyone else.  I have a tough time motivating myself to do things that I consider to be beneath me.

But this one thing I can say… I greatly value and appreciate the tasks or positions in an organization that most people consider menial or even trivial.

There is a repulsive arrogance to those who consider their role or job being superior to the grunts who do the support stuff.

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My success is not due to any personal superiority over other people.
- John Philip Sousa

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There is no question that some jobs and roles require unique skills and carry significant responsibility.  A person should be compensated accordingly… they deserve it.

Allow me to give a real life example of what I am talking about.

I have the privilege to work with lots of different leadership teams to help them become more effective in their roles of leading the organization.

One of the issues we typically discuss is the necessity of understanding the significance of all the varied tasks in the company that tend to be classified as support or mundane in nature.

We go a step further and press the most important leadership insight, genuinely valuing the contribution of these positions.

This topic becomes an important leadership discussion because appreciation for the perceived mundane is fundamentally in its crassest form, a business issue.

The companies where the workers feel genuinely valued are more successful in the long-term.  And besides that, it’s just the right thing to do!

I drive the point home by asking a series of simple questions.

Question

If you (the top leadership team) are gone for three days and the janitorial staff is gone for three days…

  • Who will be missed the most?
  • Which will have the greatest impact on morale?
  • Which will have the greatest impact on productivity?

The point becomes obvious.

This in no way suggests that leadership isn’t important, of course not!  A company would not survive nor be successful without the leadership dealing with the high level decisions and oversight that move a company forward.

All I am saying is that a person who does the less desirable jobs well is a treasure worth their weight in gold and should feel valued.

See you Monday.

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Every man I meet is in some way my superior.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson


13
Mar 12

Garbage In – Treasure Out

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Hi there, good to see you again.

The other day I ran across a newspaper article about an unorthodox funeral that occurred several years ago (September 19, 1998 to be exact).  The article was a very short blurb in a side column of human interest stories.

I am sure that many people probably shook their heads and laughed when they learned the details of the funeral, but I found it very refreshing… I would even say remarkable.

In fact, to go a step further I really admired the deceased for his request and the family for agreeing.

The Article

CLARKSTON, Mich. – Ervin Sievers’ living was hauling trash, and his dying wish was to have a garbage truck in his funeral procession. To relatives, it was the ultimate homage to the man who worked on garbage trucks since he was 17. Sievers was 45 when he died of brain cancer. This week, friends and relatives gathered inside a funeral home as a green trash truck – empty and polished – rolled into the lot, then pulled behind the hearse.

“I was a loader on the back of Erv’s truck,” the truck’s driver, Paul Cronkhite, said. “It’s not very glamorous. But he took a job that nobody likes, and he did it well (emphasis added). Co-workers describe Sievers as the company’s hardest worker.”

-  Orlando Sentinel September 19, 1998

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I was impressed.  We can learn a lot from Ervin Sievers.

Ervin had something that few people have.  He had a clear identity of who he was.

Now here’s the kicker… his identity was NOT that of being a garbage man.  We was a man who saw the value of his job and did it well.  His job happened to be garbage collecting and he was proud of his contribution.

How many people have what Ervin had?  Far too few.

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Excellence is doing a common thing in an uncommon way.

- Booker T. Washington

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Most people see the mundane or menial as not important or beneath them and avoid such things like the plague.

What’s even sadder is that many people carry it a step further and level a measure of distain or judgment toward the task… and the people.

This is so narrow and shallow.

By doing the menial things (and especially doing it well) says more about a person’s character than it does about the person.

What people don’t realize is that doing something well (especially the menial) has a mysterious transforming power.

The seemingly menial is elevated to a higher plain all because someone ascribes some dignity to a task that others deem irrelevant.

A simple act done honorably and with excellence somehow transforms that simple act into something sacred.

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True greatness consists in being great in little things.
- Charles Simmons

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Yes, Ervin Sievers drove a garbage truck.  But he was more than that.  Ervin was a teacher.

And we who have positions considered lofty by society’s standards have so very much to learn from this garbage man… if…

…If… we are willing to look up to receive from someone we consider to be below us.

Ciao, see you Thursday.

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Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.

George Halas


8
Mar 12

Stupid is as stupid does

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Hello. 

In the last blog entry I talked about the difference between raw intellect and genius. 

The catalyst for the entry was a quote by Albert Einstein. 

Everyone is a genius.  But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

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Unfortunately for those of you reading, the quote has struck again.  I am going to look at the opposite side of genius… stupidity.

As is genius, stupidity has nothing to do with intellect.  I have seen some very smart people do some very stupid things. 

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The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.
- Albert Einstein

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Stupidity is no respecter of gender, race, social status or position.  Just look at President Clinton with Monica.   Let’s face it… that was really stupid.

Now, now, before you get all pissy because you may be a Clinton fan, my example was not intended to be a cheap shot.  I am merely making the point that anyone regardless of their intellect (which he is extremely smart), or position (uh… the President of the USA) can make a stupid decision.

Seriously, if we want to get really honest, just take a look at politics in general… and both sides have plenty of examples of gross stupidity.

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If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?

- Will Rogers

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I mean, if we really want to get honest about stupidity we need to look no farther than the mirror.  I don’t know about you but I’ve done my share of stupid things. 

This may be a pretty dumb question to ask but, why?!!!!!  What are we thinking?  I guess the natural response is that we’re not thinking.

Just one more point for thought.  It is important to note that there is a big difference between stupidity and ignorance. 

Stupid is when you know better, but you do it anyway.  Ignorance is when you have no clue.

I don’t want to be ignorant or stupid.  But if I had to choose… I will take ignorance any day. 

I learned a long time ago (and our friend Bill can attest) stupidity is tough to recover from.

Now you may be asking… what is the insightful point Jerry is going to cleverly pull together?

Just let me say, don’t ask.  I have no clever point to make. 

If I have anything to say that has any redeeming value to this blog it is this.  Whatever you thinking about doing that you know is stupidSTOP NOW.

“The hard part of being a bartender is figuring out who is drunk and who is just stupid.”

- Richard Braunstein

Ciao.  See you Monday.


5
Mar 12

Would you rather be a Genius or Smart?


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Einstein was smarter than he looked.

I am not saying this to be funny or cute.  And no, I am not making fun… not at all.

There is definitely something deeper to my statement that has relevance to our lives.

He looked every bit like a scientist.  But the exceptional thing about Einstein is that he was able to translate his amazing intellect (you notice I didn’t say genius) into very practical, real life insights.

This may sound odd but there is a big difference between genius and raw intellect or brainpower.

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Andy Warhol is the only genius I’ve ever known with an I.Q. of 60.
- Gore Vidal

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I think we have automatically and mistakenly associated genius with the gift of raw intellect.  This is logical of course because for years those with a high IQ (140+) were referred to as being genius.

I contend that genius is much more prevalent than we think.  In fact, the number people who are genius is greater than those gifted people who possess raw intellect measured by a high IQ.

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Side Note: Psychology is now using the term gifted instead of genius.

  • 85 to 114 – Average intelligence
  • 115 to 129 – Above average; bright
  • 130 to 144 – Moderately gifted
  • 145 to 159 – Highly gifted
  • 160 to 179 – Exceptionally gifted
  • 180 and up – Profoundly gifted

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You may be sitting there saying, “Okay, this is interesting information but… so what?   What does all of this genius – gifted stuff have to do with me?”

Hold on… here’s the quote that stirred this blog today.

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Everyone is a genius.  But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

- Albert Einstein

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Yep… Einstein was much smarter than he looked.  An insight like this demonstrates that he had much more going for him than just being smart.

The quote makes me wonder how many people have been relegated to the fringes because they may not be considered gifted intellectually.

The sobering question is, what amazing genius are we missing out on because people don’t think they have anything to offer?

I shared this poem over a year ago but I think it really fits.

The Average Child

- by Mike Buscemi

I don’t cause teachers trouble;
My grades have been okay.
I listen in my classes.
I’m in school every day.

My teachers think I’m average;
My parents think so too.
I wish I didn’t know that, though;
There’s lots I’d like to do.

I’d like to build a rocket;
I read a book on how.
Or start a stamp collection…
But no use trying now.

’Cause, since I found I’m average,
I’m smart enough you see
To know there’s nothing special
I should expect of me.

I’m part of that majority,
That hump part of the bell,
Who spends his life unnoticed
In an average kind of hell.

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Genius is essentially creative; it bears the stamp of the individual who possesses it.
- Madame de Stael

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Find your genius… we need it.  Our world is less without it.

See you Thursday.


1
Mar 12

The Complexity of Simplicity

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Bonjour… yep, I’m in one of my international moods again.

I know, I know, it’s true… I can be just a little on the strange side at times.

I may be strange but not in a bad way.  At least when I meet people they don’t seem too intent on needing to get a chair or obstacle between me and them.

My strangeness has a certain innocence that appeals to the simple.  Although chit chatting at a party may not be my forte’ I tend to do pretty well with a group of kids.

I don’t mind being simple or appealing to the simple.  In fact, there’s a lot of power in simplicity.

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They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong.
Ronald Reagan

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In reality, simple is good, very good.

Now here’s the kicker, simple does not mean easy.

I tend to believe it is the clutter in our heads that makes things more complex than they need to be.

The clutter can be an assortment of things such as preconceived notions, personal baggage, influence of others, the environment or setting, the way we are taught, and especially our EMOTIONS.

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The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective.
Warren Buffett

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A person’s inability (or willingness as we will see later) to clear the clutter and latch onto the core elements is overwhelming and paralyzing.

The clutter seems to fragment the core issue and magnify it into a thousand pieces as if mentally you are looking through a kaleidoscope.

But unlike the kaleidoscope, the picture has neither the pattern nor the beauty.  It is a cacophony of fragments piled together making it impossible to sort.

Very honestly, I believe most things tend to be pretty simple.  Please don’t hear me say that there are no complex issues, there are.  But what I am saying is that we tend to make far too many things much too complicated.

So I work hard at keeping things as simple as possible.

I by no means have mastered simplicity.  I’m not that clever or smart.

But if I can keep in touch with the direction I am going, the overarching goals, and my core values, I tend to do pretty good.

But if you loose touch with who you are, what you believe, and what’s important… uh… you’re in deep do do.

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Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Albert Einstein

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I would like to ask a question.  What is the situation you are currently facing that seems overwhelmingly complex?

For a moment step back from the clutter, especially the emotion, of the situation and look at it in a very sterile way… like you are a third party observer.

Without over simplifying your situation allow me to offer a couple of questions to ask.

What makes sense?  What is the right thing to do?

Generally, if I am honest with myself, I really know what I should do.  The trouble is, I don’t want to do it because it’s difficult.

Don’t confuse difficult with complex.  And remember… simple does not mean easy.

The scary reality is this.  The greatest threat to simplicity is that it is easier to hide in the clutter of complexity when things are difficult.

It takes hard work to be simple.

See you Monday.

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