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.

How Am I Doing?

Self assessmentSelf assessment is not new to us. We are asked to do it every year in the workplace. We turn to our bathroom scales when we want to measure weight loss goals.  Bank statements reveal how well we reach our financial goals. But what about our performance as a parent? A spouse? What performance indicators do we turn to assess effectiveness in these areas?

I read a blog recently in which the writer described her father as an “OK father.” I couldn’t help but cringe at the thought of being a mediocre father or husband. I certainly do not aim for such distinction and so I asked myself, “How Am I Doing?”  After significant contemplation (approximately 2 minutes) the answer was. “I’m doing a fantastic job”. That is generally how the self-assessment of annual performance in the workplace goes, right?  Until the boss comes in with a different perspective. The disconnect becomes apparent and we are left wondering WTF!

It is those to whom we are responsible whose perspectives matter most. After all, their perception is their reality. So to effectively measure my performance as a father and a husband, I should definitely turn turn to my customer group — the wife and kids. Gulp!


I will need some assessment tools. A set of agreed upon criteria by which to measure my effectiveness. The results should give me an idea of “strengths” and “areas for improvement”.

In his book, The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting, Laurence Steinberg, PhD provides guidelines based on some of the top social science research which neatly serves as the criteria for my performance evaluation .  I Gave the criteria to my daughters and asked them to score me on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being a “deadbeat” and 10 being worthy of “father of the year.”  Here’s how I scored:

  1. Am I a good role model?  Average score – 10
  2. Do I show enough love and affection? Average score – 9
  3. Am I involved in your life? Average score – 9.5
  4. Does my parenting keep pace with your development? Average score – 9
  5. Do I establish and set rules? Average score – 9
  6. Do I foster your independence? Average score – 8 [verbatim: “Not very independent. I’m spoiled.”]
  7. Am I consistent? Average score – 9.5
  8. Do I avoid harsh discipline? Average score – 10
  9. Do I explain my rules and decisions? Average score – 9.5
  10. Do I treat you with respect? Average score – 10 [verbatim: “A 10 even though you call me rude names”]

Not bad scores overall, but there is clear opportunity for me to help my girls become more independent…and avoid calling them rude names.  That last one is going to be tough I will admit.

Now on to husbandry.  I found a few articles after conducting a basic search, combined several attributes into one evaluation form, and delivered said form to Angela Lee:

  1. Do I display trust? Score – 10
  2. Do I show you that I love you? Score – 10
  3. Do I communicate openly? Score – 8
  4. Do I recognize your sacrifices for the relationship? Score – 10
  5. Do I help provide for the family? Score – 10
  6. Do I strive to be more human and magnanimous? Score – 10
  7. Do I meet your needs? Score – 10
  8. Do I provide adventure? Score – 10
  9. Do I tell you that I love you? Score – 10
  10. Do I respect your opinions? Score – 9

The take-away here is 1) I am a slightly better husband than I am a father and 2) I have some work to do respecting her opinions and practicing more open communication.  To that I say, she’s wrong and I don’t care to discuss it further.

While this was a fun, cheeky exercise, going through it facilitated good discussion with those whose perceptions of my performance matter most. The follow up discussion on how I can be a better dad and how to improve my already formidable husband skills will aid in my desire to be the best that I can be in all areas of my life.  So, how am I doing?  Practitioner seems to be the grade…for the moment.