Finding Purpose Through Work

I read a recent article from ABC News that reinforces what we’ve heard for years; that American workers work more than anyone in the industrialized world.  We take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later.

With that in mind and considering how other aspects of daily living keep us grinding, how can we possibly find time for meaningful community engagement?  One way is to be more efficient with our time and resources.  Consider getting involved in community engagement projects through your job.

As an Influencer

If you lead an organization and have access to resources, consider engaging in projects that connect your business to issues, events, or causes that are important to you.  It’s an opportunity to strengthen your brand and raise your profile in the community that you serve.  You’ll inspire your staff by creating team-building opportunities that bring multiple departments or constituencies together for a higher purpose.

I decided to do this in my own shop by introducing a project that met our mission, contributed to work productivity, and created meaningful community engagement.  We decided to use our capacity as a journalistic organization to spend a year reporting on the growing poverty rate in our community.  Having grown up in Section 8 housing most of my childhood, it is an issue that is near and dear to my heart.  The City Limits Poverty Project involves the entire staff from reporters and producers to development staff to marketing and communications to front office.  The team felt a sense of pride and purpose that combined professional and personal interests.  It has also generated positive press and professional recognition for the organization.

Choose a project, identify resources, and build a team for the greater good in your community.  Your customers and constituents will feel good about their support for your organization and your staff will appreciate the opportunity for community engagement without impacting the busy home life.  It’s far bigger impact than making an anonymous donation.

As a Team Member

Rose Garden
A group of volunteers maintains the rose garden at Thornden Park

You can help contribute to a positive company culture, give back to your community, and still make the kids soccer game on the weekend.  If offered the opportunity to participate, take it.  If community engagement is not a part of your company’s culture, introduce it.  While many companies large and small make annual contributions to local charities, there is greater value in organizing your own events.  The team-building, publicity, and goodwill can have a long lasting, positive impact beyond simple recognition for a cut check.  Make this case to your employer and offer to lead the effort.  Much of the work will be done during regular business hours (wink wink) and you’ll be telling your friends about it over cold micro brews after the weekend softball game.  Again, everyone wins.

Food or clothing drives, public park clean-up efforts, job shadowing for at-risk youth, or donating services to needy non-profits are great examples of how some businesses in my community choose to get involved.  An advertising firm in our town chooses a local nonprofit each year for a brand and awareness campaign makeover.  I think that is a cool idea.

Combining your community involvement and work activities creates life efficiencies that can alleviate your over-scheduled life.  Because of all the time that we have to give, “me” time is essential for a healthy, happy life.

 

Death and Wood: An East-Coast Urbanite’s Foray in the Mid-West


Ahhh…the mid-west. I’ve been here thrice before but the visits were to major urban areas like Kansas City and Denver, and a more culturally diverse college town in Greeley, CO. But this is my first time in the sparsely populated heartland.

I made the trip to visit my dad and his wife, Erika, in Bloomfield, Nebraska where they relocated to some years ago. I got my first taste of mid-west flavor while people watching as I awaited my flight to Sioux Falls, SD in Chicago Ohare airport the day after the Cubs won the World Series. If I had a dollar for every dude that I saw sporting “dad jeans” and hiking shoes, I’d be Mark Zuckerberg rich.

Big agriculture is the name of the game in Nebraska. The landscape is gold and tan hued peppered with brown and black cows and accented with sprinkles of modernity in the form of giant white propellers.

 

Dry fields stretch as far as the eye can see and trees are small islands of green that pool around homes or separate property lines. It would be fair to say that I did not come across a true forrest the entire time that I visited.  And it is dusty. Extremely dusty. Tractors kick up clouds of dust so thick that it lingers still in the air if the wind isn’t blowing and the cutting down of end-of-season crops delivers pestilence to the doorstep of man. The flies, beetles and grasshoppers overwhelmed me. Acreages and acreages of trees and grassy plains displaced by crops of corn grown to fuel ethanol production and grazing cattle to satisfy Americas demand for beef unveils miles of barren vista. A sad sight for my urban eyes.


Bloomfield is a town with a population of 1,126 and it is what you would expect of a small Mid-western town. The pace is slow, the people are friendly, and the opportunities for fun and employment are scarce. Quaint is the adjective I used most often to describe the place. The convenience store owner, the real estate agent, and newspaper publisher that I met were all so friendly and accommodating. And they all seemed to have a great deal of respect for my dad and Erika.


Trips like these are often moments of self-discovery for me. The things that I frequently complain about, like crowds and traffic, are among the things that I miss the most about the east. You can drive for miles without seeing another car and move about the day missing human interaction as long stretches of road separate residential properties. The isolation is as depressing as the failing economy here.

The emerald green of the east with its tree covered hills, sparkling lakes, and massive traffic jams call to the urbanite in me. There are many reasons why the left and right coasts are so heavily populated. Buzzing restaurants, live music, walkable cities and communities, public art, the diversity of life itself…these things matter to many.  And yet there were some pleasurable discoveries and experiences in Nebraska. I ate an elk burger full of flavor. I shot a gun in an open field without fear of disturbing the neighbors or risk of being shot by the police for possession of a weapon. I discovered a winery that rivaled many on the Seneca Lake wine trail. These things I will long remember.  Still, my values won’t play well out here. A pair of Ferragamo shoes would be as useless as tits on a bull as they say.

My dad is nearing 78 and is as obdurate as you would expect a 78 year-old to be. He and his wife have settled in nicely in Nebraska and have become an integral part of the social fabric of Bloomfield. I amused myself, during this visit, with his obsession with wood and death. Not long ago they lived on a farm and partially heated their home by burning firewood. During this period, he collected a lot of fire wood. And although that is no longer the case, his tour of the area included areas where he collected the fire wood. Private property where he was given permission (and sometimes not) to remove fallen trees. A drive by of the old farm house revealed where he chopped the tonnage of wood collected over time.  Passing other homes I learned of the families fates including who died. Collecting and burning wood was a significant part of his life for such a long time that he now suffers from “wood envy”. He showed me properties where the homeowners had enviable stacks of wood. Piles of wood gathered in anticipation of the winter to come. The irony of a man’s obsession with collecting wood in a woodless land was not lost on me.

I am happy that they have settled into a place that they can call home. A place where neighborly connections are meaningful even in a place where people are scattered like sand in the wind. This place is good for them. It was a pleasure visiting the two of them, but the east calls to me now…and I must answer.

An Open Letter to My Daughters

ClintonObama
President Barack Obama and Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wave together during the third day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

My two loves. I come to you in this forum because, as you well know, my fingers are often far more eloquent than my tongue. I want you to realize that you are living in extraordinary times.

You have witnessed the election and presidency of our nation’s first African-American president and the selection of the first woman to receive the presidential nomination of a major political party and potentially the first woman President of the United States. These are extraordinary accomplishments that should not be taken for granted.

I am very happy that you two watched Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech as well as the speech given by the nation’s first African-American First Lady of the United States. These are not ordinary women.

If you follow this presidential election, you will undoubtedly hear a range of opinions on Hillary Clinton. You will hear that she is just another politician. You will hear that she cannot be trusted. You will hear that she is self-serving. These are not your father’s beliefs.

The truth of the matter is that Hillary Clinton (just like our First Lady) is a phenomenal woman. A woman who devoted her life to public service because of early childhood experiences and the political climate of her youth. Both of these women have achieved greatness and I want you to know that you do not rise to this level without waking your inner phenomenal woman.

As a girl, Hillary Rodham was profoundly affected by the stories of her mother being abandoned as a child. A child often left to fend for herself. Who was there to protect this child? Who was there to shield her from harm? Or coach her potential? And if this could happen to her mother, how many other children in our society must suffer from similar circumstances and neglect? A phenomenal woman takes that kind of experience and internal dialogue and turns it into a calling. Ask yourself, why was Hillary Rodham selected to be the first student in Wellesley College history to deliver a commencement address? She was not of privileged stock. It is because she was identified as an extraordinary, passionate individual… a phenomenal woman.

I am here to tell you that there is nothing particularly special about Hillary Clinton. The phenomenal woman exists in every girl. You just have to wake her up. And I see her in you two already. Imani, you have been identified by your employer as a woman worth investing in. It is because you show promise and rise above expectations. You are awakening the phenomenal woman. Hadiya, you are driven by your desire to exceed as a student. Your being singled out in your summer program as the student who showed the most promise in your major is an awakening of your phenomenal woman. The two of you must recognize her, nurture her and bring her to life.

Being extraordinary is not inherent to special people. It is an individual choice. It requires effort and discipline. It is conscious action. Most of all, it requires belief in yourself and the belief that you can transcend the obstacles that would consign you to mediocrity. It is summoning your phenomenal woman.

I mention our First Lady and Hillary Clinton as examples of extraordinary women and there are hundreds of others. But you need not look any further than your own home for the greatest example of all. Your mother is exemplary. A black girl from a small Virginia town and a non-traditional educational path does not become a Vice President of major company without awakening her inner phenomenal woman. At home, we jokingly say that we know when mom has taken her BB pill. It is just a different way of saying that her phenomenal woman is in action. Just know that when she pushes you, she pokes your dormant phenomenal woman. When she challenges you, she challenges the phenomenal woman in you. She knows, as do I, that you have the ability to be extraordinary in whatever you do. You need only breathe life into your phenomenal woman.

You both have asked me at different times in your life if I was ever disappointed that I did not have a son. I understand the question because I understand the value that our society places on male children.  But my response has always been the same. I have who I am supposed to have. The lives that I helped bring into this world are the lives that I have been entrusted to shape and mold. You are my destiny and my purpose in life. You are beautiful, talented young women who can be and do anything that you want to do. You need only exercise your imagination, remove your limitations, and awaken your phenomenal woman. And always remember that our love for you knows no boundaries.

Dad

I Found Love On A MTA Bus…

BusI never saw her get on the bus.  It just rolled on down North Ave on its way to Harford Rd. The fumes irritated my nose and the shoddy suspension made my empty stomach queasy. The bus was packed tight on a Monday morning and I stared out of the window thinking only of how much I hated public transportation; its smells and passengers.

It was 1986; a transition period in my life and I was in the midst of an existential crisis. My mind fluttered back and forth between how and why I was occupying space and time and contemplating my few but significant shortcomings.

The carriage stopped around Greenmount Ave where most of its riders exited.  And as the bus thinned,  its then nearly hollow shell revealed a curious creature. She wore a tight short skirt and off-white boots decorated with paisley – a subtle nod to her favorite artist.

Her hair was tight, lips painted red, makeup neatly, tastefully applied. Her shit was together. The fitted skirt revealed womanly curves though one could easily tell that she was just a girl.  Legs smooth as frog skin.  Her plump, sweet lips clung to a face far too serious for her age and framed by dangling gold hoops.  She looked out-of-place on the MTA bus and nothing about her spoke of Baltimore. I peeped that from the start.

I wish that this was the part of the story where I could offer a tale of love-at-first-sight. One where we looked into each other’s eyes and saw our future. A story of rapid pulses and beating hearts. But I can not. The truth of the matter is that I saw chocolate thighs and she…well, she saw nothing.

I moved closer. Perhaps to get a better look, a whiff of perfume. I didn’t talk to strangers then. Not usually. I had no pick up lines at the ready. Two seats away I sat innocuously; eyes fixed firmly on her paisley ankle boots. My eyes worked their way up from ankle to leg to thigh and hip. And at the risk of sounding crude…noticed that she had a nice ass. A really nice ass.

Now normally, that would be the extent of my mental escapade. I’d admire a pretty girl and entertain a fantasy or two. Shyness was always difficult for me to overcome. But I noticed an “in”…a gateway to introduction. She and I happened to be gripping the same text-book. And I thought, “Surely it can’t get any easier than this.” So I spoke, “Excuse me. Did we have assignments to complete from that book”? Her reply was a cold, “yes.”  There was no look of “oh are we in the same class” or “I’m glad to make a new acquaintance.” “Yes” was all she said and she continued her blank stare out of the aquarium-like window of the MTA bus. I swung, I missed, I felt dejected.

I thought myself a charming fellow but she remained immune to my charms for a while. Yet I remained obdurate in my backdoor approach. Overtime, in class, I earned her trust and friendship. I finally smashed it half-way through the semester.

I still remember the first kiss. The sound of her voice when she first said my name. Walks to the corner store. The first time she used profanity. Me showing her my small slice of Baltimore. Getting off the bus at Lexington Market. Extravagant lunches at Burger King. Late night phone calls when one of us would eventually fall as sleep. Not wanting to be the first to hang up the phone. Painful times.  Fun times. Confusing times. Events and emotions that proved to be the genetic code of love and the foundation of our union.

Me and the girl from the bus played house. We made babies. We were the architects of dreams. But there never was a love-at-first-sight moment. No fantasy tale to tell. No eyes meeting and locking among the throngs of miserable faces on the MTA bus. Love is what you make of it and we chose to make something special.

I tricked MTA girl into loving me. Taught her how to love me, really, as she taught me to love her. 26 Valentine’s Days have come and gone. 26 Valentine’s Days have added 26 strong blocks to our foundation. And now, in retrospect, these 26 Valentine’s Days have given me a newfound appreciation for public transportation.

 

The First Time I Almost Died: An Excerpt From the Memoir – The Making of a Miscreant

Searbury Rd in Cherry Hill, Baltimore, MD
Seabury Rd in Cherry Hill, Baltimore, MD

I don’t know if I woke up that morning with a plan or, like many boys, decided to turn found junk into opportunity.  Or perhaps it was another kid’s idea.  But the plan on a hot, sunny, summer’s day in the early 1970’s was to catch some frogs.  Nothing at all unique about this endeavor for rural preteen boys, but for urban youth, it required a measure of planning and adventure.

2438 Seabury Rd in the Cherry Hill section of Baltimore, MD was home.  It was my home.  I lived in Section 8 housing but I didn’t know it at the time.  A single mom and two boys living in an apartment on the right-hand side of the court, eventually moved to a townhouse over on the left.  That court was our world and we did not often venture far beyond its borders except to cross the street to the elementary school playground and basketball court, or to the nearest corner store to buy penny candy.  We all new each other.  It was the kind of place, and a place in time, when the neighbors were empowered to discipline you.  And the maintenance workers might toss a football around with you in between tasks.

On this day, though, we were going to catch us some frogs.  But where?  First things first.  We needed a vessel for the frogs.  My friend Keith, a brown, lanky kid with a small afro, and my brother’s friend, Tony who was a year or two older, joined me as I rummaged through neighbors hot garbage cans for frog storing containers.  We emerged with plastic jugs and milk cartons that we, with ghetto ingenuity, transformed by cutting the tops off and creating handles using pieces of twine.

Now, where?  Beyond the borders of the court and the elementary school, sat the Patapsco River which fed into Baltimore’s harbor.  Good for catching crabs, not so much for frogs.  Our attentions turned west to the train tracks.

Carter G Woodson Elementary School
Carter G Woodson Elementary School

Someone told someone who, in turn, told Keith that creeks and streams ran parallel to the tracks so we surmised that frogs must exist in the general vicinity.  In tank-top, cut off shorts, Jack Purcells and pals in tow, I headed west for a couple of miles in search of amphibians.  Along the way, Keith tells tales of strings of fireworks that dangle from passing trains.  He tells us, “If we can hop the train without getting caught, we can snatch some firecrackers to take back home.”  Even as an 8-year-old, that hardly seemed plausible.  But what the hell, I was up for anything.

The tracks were rusty looking and raised above grade.  They were surrounded with crushed stone on each side.  To our delight, a stream ran along side a portion of the tracks, among a thin line of trees. Even at 8 years old, I had experience catching frogs.  My grandparents bought a parcel of land in Carol County and I spent many a summer’s day catching frogs, snakes and turtles.  So I lead the way.  We filled our containers with water from the stream and set them on leveled ground.

Aerial view of the tracks outside of Cherry Hill
Aerial view of the tracks outside of Cherry Hill

Wading ankle-deep, hands held 6 inches or so apart, we moved slowly so as not to disturb the wildlife.  Frogs sat along the bank of the stream, unsuspecting, warming their cold blood.  Keith, too anxious, misses his first.  He mutters a choice profanity or two.  I snag my first.  Then a second.  The others join in with better success having watched a pro in action.

In the distance, we hear the clacking of train wheels on tracks drawing neigh.  “Firecrackers”! Keith yells.  The frogs that we managed to catch were put into the 3 containers and sat closer to the tracks.  We waited patiently and grew excited as the train came into view.  Keith told us to run along side the train and grab any rail  or handle to pull ourselves up.  I think Keith lied about the fireworks.  I saw none.  Still, hopping a moving train seemed fun and so we moved, like experienced hobos, to make our way on-board.

The train appeared to move slow on approach but seemed to gain steam as it was upon us.  Clacking with rhythm.  Clacking with purpose.  And so were we.  Moving alongside the train as fast as our little preteen legs could carry us. We three intrepid boys searched for something to grab onto.  I trailed the other two and began to run out of steam.  Keith and Tony kept trying in earnest.  Laughing and running along side the cars, looking for something, anything to grab a hold of.  Hands on knees, huffing and puffing, we three boys watched the train move on down the line.  Victorious.

An overwhelming sense of relief washed over me.  I was scared and afraid to admit it.  Not afraid of getting on the train, but getting off of the train.  Jumping off of a moving train was not something I even remotely wanted to attempt.

We made the long trek back to the frogs, failures as hobos.  What seemed like miles of track was most likely a few hundred yards.  Back at the site, the frogs were gone, containers smashed.  Shocked and perplexed, we three boys stood there silent, speechless, and dumbfounded.  Who would do such a thing? Who would ruin the perfect afternoon?  It was such flapdoodle that we struggled to comprehend what might have transpired during the short time that we chased the train.  One frog remained in my plastic milk container, smashed and bloodied.  A sad and truculent act.

I watched Keith’s eyes as he spied a figure emerging from the tree line.  A boy, much older than the three of us, carrying a hunter’s bow with bladed arrow.  This older boy told us that he was looking for some “white dudes” that assaulted his father.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this would-be hunter of white dudes was not himself the capricious, frog-murdering bastard that ruined my afternoon.  But Tony and Keith were enchanted by the bow and arrow and did not share my suspicion.  They had never seen and hunter’s bow and arrow up close.  Neither had I for that matter.

“How far can that thing go?”, Keith chimed.  “Really far”, answered the stranger.  Now he had my interest and attention. “Let me see”, I added.  “Shoot it up”, I pointed to the sky.  The stranger, bow in left hand, motioned with his right, gesticulating that we give some clearance.  He pointed the bow upward, pulled the string back to his ear, and loosed the arrow.  It flew straight up, climbing until it was out of sight.  We three boys stood, planted in the gravel, mouths wide open and eyes bulging out of our heads.  The stranger’s faced  turned from a look of accomplishment to having a real “oh shit” moment.  “Run!”, the stranger yelled.

Without knowing the intricacies and particulars of the laws of gravity, even we three boys knew that what goes up, must come down.  We scrambled.  Nervous laughter echoed and gravel flew as we made our way to the tree line.  My foot slipped and I landed on one knee.  With a thud, the arrow landed in my back.  Lodged into my right scapula.

I don’t know what was worse, the pain or the shock of being shot.  Given all the wide open space, what were the odds that a single arrow shot into the air would find its way through my flesh and into bone?  I fell face down in the gravel, arrow shaft sticking out of my back.  Cowboys and Indians for real. The stranger panicked.  He grabbed hold of the arrow with one hand and placed the other hand on my left shoulder.  He yanked.  He shouldn’t have done that.  Every western movie you have ever seen said don’t yank the arrow.  But he yanked.  And he ran.  I stood.  And I bled.

Gash in the back and bleeding profusely I, with my friends, started the long trek back to Seabury Rd.  The energy drained from me with every step.  The sun grew hotter and my tank top began to stick to my skin as the blood coagulated.  The boys were concerned but none of us had any idea how serious the situation had become.

 

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday – Petey Greene

Legendary broadcaster Peetey Greene
Legendary broadcaster Petey Greene

I thought I would take this Throwback Thursday opportunity to also recognize Black History Month because A) it is February and B) I’m too lazy to create two separate posts.  And since I am posting about achievements in Black History, I thought I would focus on my own industry – radio.

There have been some outstanding broadcast pioneers, trailblazers if you will, to come out of the black American experiment.  The “black DJ” was an integral member of the black community since the late 1940’s.  Not so much today given cross-over formats and corporate consolidation.  But back in the day, there were some true gems in the business.  Cats like Jack “The Rapper” Gibson, Rufus Thomas, and Jocko Henderson held daily parties in the studio and invited listeners in with their fast-talking, hip-talking lingo in the 1940’s and 50’s.  But by the 1960’s, things began to change.  The social conscience of black America gave the black DJ a platform from which he could speak directly to the community en masse, and with some authority.  That’s when cat’s like Petey Greene changed the game.

My hometown had its own stars like WEBB's Ron Pinkney
My hometown had its own stars like WEBB’s Ron Pinkney

Ralph Waldo Greene, Jr’s start in radio actually began in prison in the early 1960’s where he served some time as the prison DJ.  The charismatic high school dropout manipulated his way to an early release in 1966.  In the summer of ’66, Petey started his professional career as a DJ at WOL AM in Washington, DC with the Rappin’ With Peetey Greene show.  Unlike the trailblazers before him, Petey broadened his repertoire beyond popular music and included controversial subjects like race and politics.  And the people loved him for it.  Loved him for “telling it like it is”.  They loved him so much that his popularity elevated him to the television broadcast game.  He won two Emmy’s for his Petey Greene’s Washington TV show. Petey had the gift of gab.  He demonstrated how wit and charisma could move people to action, and in the case of the 1968 riots in Washington, DC, move people to inaction.  The human voice, amplified by radio, encourages sodality and community.  This is what he showed us.  He demonstrated the power of voice and the power of radio.  His life was chronicled in the film Talk To Me starring Don Cheadle.  Worth a view if you haven’t seen it.  And now…this moment in black history…is brought to you by Petey Greene:

“Shut Up Before I Really Give You Something to Cry About”

Vikings RB Peterson

A recent exchange with a family member had me reminiscing about my childhood and how I was reared by extended family and…got me thinking about Adrian Peterson.

Peterson’s recent off-field activities have landed him in hot water with the law and on the wrong side of public opinion as it relates to child rearing.  His detractors emerged quickly as did his supporters.

The ass-whooping is lore in the black community and many of us have comical tales of having to procure our own switches and belts to aid in our corporal punishment.  There was something about having extra time to think about your transgressions and come to grips with your inevitable thrashing.  We have, over time, romanticized and accepted corporal punishment as a part of our hardcore upbringing.  If you’ve ever seen a stand-up routine from comedian DL Hughely and others, you have undoubtedly heard them joke about the subject.  Former NBA star, Charles Barkley, famously spoke out about the Peterson situation and claimed that it was an accepted fact that hind-parts were not off limits in addressing adolescent mischievousness if you were a southern black.

Spanking2

And it’s not just a black thing.  CNN reported that in a 2012 national survey, that half of women and three-quarters of men in the U.S. believe a child sometimes needs a “good hard spanking”. But there are physical and emotional consequences with each swing of the switch.  In that same report, CNN reported that numerous studies showed detrimental effects on trajectories of brain development, increased aggression, a decrease in cognitive ability, and decreased levels of gray matter.  We aren’t simply beating the shit out of our kids, we are also beating the potential out of them.

The emotional effects are equally damning.  We don’t know how every swing of the belt, swat of the paddle or bare hand whacking shaped the relationships that we have, or don’t have, with our elders.  I often think about how envious I am of friends and associates who have very close relationships with parents, grandparents or other care-givers.  I wonder if my own relationships might be closer and more fulfilling had a different approach to discipline been used.

The day that the Peterson story broke, my social media timelines were flooded with comments like “I got my ass whooped as a kid and I turned out just fine.”  Hell, I think I may have written something similar.  The truth of the matter, though, is that we have no idea what or who we could have become had a different parenting approach been taken. For the record, I have no doubt that AP loves his children.  He just needs a different approach to raising them.

My own approach to child-rearing in general and, more specifically, disciplining, differs vastly from my own upbringing.  Love, encouragement, and currency has been the general rule of thumb in the Lee household.  And I suspect, indeed hope, that the yield will be long-lasting, love-filled, close relationships with my girls.

What do you think?  Does/did your parenting style differ from that of your elders?  Do you agree or disagree with the research?  Have a funny ass-whooping tale to tell?

Throwback Thursday: Innovation and Motivation

Old-school TV knob replacement
Old-school TV knob replacement

Those of us over a certain age remember this multipurpose tool as an effective replacement for the worn and broken television knob.  Yes children, televisions had knobs that were used to tune into different channels…all three or four of them.  After a few years of twisting and turning the knob too and fro, the plastic slot that fit over the tuner stem would wear and/or crack, rendering the knob itself useless.  Enter the handy set of pliers from dad’s tool box.  The tool sat on the television stand at the ready when it was time to navigate from The Price Is Right to the day-time soap operas.  I imagine those of you from families that could afford to replace the television did so in earnest.  For others like my family, we used the pliers until the metal stem of the tuner itself wore down.  The pliers, because of their multipurpose use, exist today.  The television knob…not so much.  It, as you know, was replaced by the remote control unit.

As far back as the late 1800’s, inventor Nikola Tesla described remote control technology in a U.S. Patent and Zenith Radio Corporation created the very first television remote in 1950.  These disruptive innovators endeavored to solve problems and enhance comfort and convenience.  Today, Panasonic has developed voice-activated televisions with facial recognition technology.  Tomorrow remote controls will join the TV knobs in tech heaven.

Examples of innovation and useful disruption on various scales are all around us as models of how we can and should live our lives.  A disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or a ground-breaking product that creates a completely new industry.  Innovation is a new method, idea, product, transformation, metamorphosis, etc.  This is all scale-able to the personal level.

astronomyCenturies ago man looked at the moon and said, “damn it, I want to go there”!  And we did.  That’s innovation and motivation on a large scale.  As artists, creators, educators, leaders, managers and contributors, we should always endeavor for disruption and innovation.  Unless your position in life requires obsequious service, you should push yourself, your craft or your organization toward transformation.  Self-motivation is the time-proven cure for stagnation.  Ensconced in comfortable positions, happy to collect a pay check or simply survive to the next day is a reality for many.  Sameness can be as comfortable as an old fuzzy blanket.  Comfortable yes, but not necessarily useful or healthy.

Motivation pushes us to achieve at higher levels, feel more fulfilled and improve overall quality of life.  People who are self-motivated tend to be more organized and have more self-esteem and confidence.  Be it intrinsic motivators like having fun, being interested or creating personal challenges; or extrinsic motivators like money, power or high marks, self-motivation can help you take control of many aspects of your life.  Take a moment to take inventory of your life.  If there is a way for you to be more useful to yourself, your employer, or your organization, do it.

TV knob

The TV knob wishes it was still relevant.  The TV knob wishes it could have found a way to be of continued service to manufacturers.  The TV knob wishes it hadn’t just hung around and waited for the remote to replace it.  Don’t be a TV knob.  Get out there and shake shit up.

Men’s Fall Fashion Trends – 2014

Fall2014cover

What does one do on a chilly 66 degree day…in August!?  He starts thinking about fall fashion.  A well dressed Hominid is a cultured Hominid indeed.  If it is too soon for you and you haven’t done your research yet, no worries my friends.  I’ve scoured the net for you and have chosen some age-appropriate trends that will get you started on planning your fresh look for the season.

Footwear

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This is very similar to a boot that I already own but creepers (rubber soled) were a theme that I noticed.  Comfortable and versatile, these boots will pair well with denim or a suit.

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These handsome oxfords with fancy toe stitch and comfortable soles are also versatile.  Wear with denim and a blazer or a pair of wool or plaid slacks.

Tailored Pant and Layering

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After a brief excursion into roomier, baggier slacks, the tailored pant is back.  The cropped bottom was a theme I noted in many fall fashion reports.  The pant is also worn with bulkier layers on top.  The model here is sporting an overcoat, un-tucked button down shirt, cardigan sweater and scarf.

Speaking of Scarfs

Big over-sized scarfs appeared on runways from New York to Milan.  Some were tasteful for men-of-a-certain-age and some were just silly.

Do this (left)

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Not this

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The pashmina look might work for a younger man moving about the streets of NYC but for you and I…we’ll just get laughed at.

The Roll Neck

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I was excited to see that the roll neck (turtle neck) was back on the scene.  Especially living in the Northeast United States.  Go classic with a dark roll neck under a dark jacket.

The 3’s

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The three-piece suit and 3-button jacket is in the line-up.  The look is far better suited (pun intended) for men over 6 ft tall.  Us shorties will do ourselves a favor by keeping the top button undone and covered with the lapel.

Grooming

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I read at least two reports that suggested the clean shaven look is back in.  Thank goodness because I never let my facial hair grow out.  However, if you are single and on the market, I read a study this year that suggested that women tend to find those men going against the facial hair trend more attractive.  So in seasons when beards are in, women prefer clean shaven.  When clean shaven is the norm…you get the point.

These are just a few ideas for you.  Feel free to do your own research to better define your look for Fall/Winter 2014-2015.

Now go make fashion happen!

Have We Forgotten How To Have Fun?

Apes Laugh

Let’s face it. This stage in our lives can often be stressful. We have high pressure jobs that are demanding, vicissitudes in our economic situations, family responsibilities, sleep deprivation and overcrowded roads full of road-rage potential. Stress, as mentioned in my two previous posts, is a normal and damaging part of our lives.  Prolonged stress can pose significant health risks.

Stress

Your body is made to react to stressful situations in ways that would keep you safe from predators and other dangers. It releases adrenaline and Cortisol which increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure and boost energy supplies. When stressers are constant and you feel under attack, your fight-or-flight reaction stays on and your body reacts accordingly. The result can be in the form of anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep deprivation, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment. This according to the Mayo Clinic.

Audrey

 

I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.

I’m always struck by that quote from legendary actress Audrey Hepburn because it is so true. Study upon study shows the health benefits of laughter and fun. Humor lightens our burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you rooted. We know this stuff.  It is not a new revelation. But somehow, it seems to me, that we have forgotten how to laugh, how to have fun. Our society is far more sensitive to racy jokes. Social media feeds the “gotcha” reaction to everything and anything considered not politically correct.  We are a more uptight people who need surgery to remove the stick from our collective asses.

The benefits of leisure and recreation are clear but are we taking full advantage of that knowledge? Are we having fun? Are we laughing enough?  Or do we confine it to the one or two weeks of vacation time each year? Here are a few tips to get us back on the fun train:

Maintain a sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re an uptight bore. Take a moment to laugh at the absurd things in your life.

Spend time with friends that bring out the laughter.

Engage your partner. Avoid bitching and complaining about your ass-hole boss or your annoying office mate. Share stories about amusing things that happened throughout the day. Like the dude that had toilet paper sticking out of his pants and no one told him.

Avoid laughing at the expense of others. Aside from toilet-paper-dude, don’t be cruel with your laughter. You’ll only feel guilty later.

Watch a comedy show or movie when feeling stressed. Sometimes, you need not follow up a stressful day with The Walking Dead.

Find a funny video on line and share it. There are a million of them out there.

Act like a child. Who knows better how to have fun than our children. Have a water balloon fight in the back yard or some other messy activity.

Run around the house naked and shake your butt in the mirror. Trust me it works. But only if you are home alone. Or maybe not. You decide on your comfort level with that one.

PryorShout out to those who spent a lifetime bringing out the laughter in us all: Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Bernie Mac, Gilda Radner, Bill Cosby, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Cheech & Chong, Don Rickles, Phyllis Diller…the list goes on.

I’d love to hear about your idea of fun. What makes you laugh? Do you have a hobby? What are your silly moments? Can you make milk spill out of your nose? Show me.

In the meantime, enjoy this funny video. It breaks the rule about laughing at someone else’s expense but, he is a dictator so screw him.