Monday, July 28, 2014

Life with a Lot of Noise

“What did you say?”  At face value, that brief question, without any vocal reflection, potentially can be taken as someone about to pick a fight, someone that just received bad news, or someone you are trying to hear.  We all know people that have some difficulty hearing, whether do to age, illness or simply selective hearing.  One gentleman I know, whose hearing has deteriorated with age, often asks that when we are in a group that only one of us speaks so that he can hear what is being said.  His ability to decipher a single voice out of all the ambient sounds and from a group of voices has become difficult. 

Recently, I was asked a question to help someone out.  The specifics of the situation are not important.  What is important is that to this person, an issue arose that could taint people’s perception based on someone else’s condition.  The question was how do we address this situation and stop it from happening in the future.  After much thought and reflection, I realized that the situation, when taken by itself, could be of concern.  Andy Andrews writes about perspective and how if you change your perspective, the situation could be very different from originally perceived.  Once I applied his thinking, I realized that the situation in front of us could be taken as a positive.  If people’s perception leads them to lower expectations, then we have the opportunity to come out looking better by comparison.  Sometimes, a potentially innocent comment taken out of context, like the game of telephone, can become something different from what was originally said. 

In the example above, if we keep our focus on the bigger picture, some of the smaller issues that arise should be recognized as such and not distract us from the direction we are heading.  Similar things can happen in the work place, where a person is involved in an important project.  With deadlines looming, they are off working on something with a low priority that can wait until the major project is completed.  I know that “in the heat of the moment” we sometimes are lured into listening to the noise that surrounds us.  However, just as the gentleman mentioned earlier, we need to pick out the voices we should be hearing and tune out the ambient sounds. Sometimes, the noise is just noise.

Monday, July 21, 2014

What is the Priority?

In my household, there are four different people – my wife, my two daughters and myself.  In the band I play in, there are five other musicians beside me; two of them are my brothers.  At the place that employs me, there are 1300 people worldwide, out of which I interact with about 30.  At the house of worship I attend, there are 400+ family units.  I am my own person and at the end of the day, I need to prioritize my actions based upon my perception of the situation, potential outcomes and maintain my personal beliefs and values.  As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”  If I were an island, my prioritization would be all that matters; however, I exist with other people as I have outlined.  We need to be aware of the people that surround us and their priorities, as they could have an impact on our outcomes, or they could cause conflicting problems or provide us with other potential options.

Some time ago, I walked down into our basement, where I have an office.  As I stepped off the bottom step onto the carpeted floor, I realized that the color of the carpet look different in one spot – It was wet.  Instead of assessing the situation, I was all prepared to blame the dog. As I was ready to run up the steps, I figured on looking at the carpet.  Yes, I bent down to smell the wet spot – nope, that is not the dog.  “Oh, no!” I thought when I came to the realization that we had a leak in our water heater.  What a mess!  I ended up having to place a claim to our insurance and have someone come in to dry out the basement, remove / replace the carpet and replace the drywall.  Ripping out the carpeting meant clearing off my bookcase and emptying file cabinets.  For a small space, there was a lot of stuff.  We bought all different types of containers to move the stuff into.  Once the basement was usable, I now had the task of going through the containers and sort things out.  I threw away some things, regrouping like-kind items and separated out the papers to be shredded.  I was off to a good start.

…and that is where it ended. I know that to do tasks correctly, it will take dedicated time to go through and review.  I have tucked the cartons into an area that is not currently in use.  For me, based on the time needed to complete this task, it is not a priority.  For my wife, however, this is a priority.  The space where the cartons are located is where we used to have the band equipment when we held practices in our house.  Once the band “relocated” to my brother’s basement, we had the space to use for the family, which my wife suggested would be a great location for a stationary bike and / or treadmill or to use as a room for our kids to hang out in.  Makes sense.  I do not exercise (I know that is not ideal), so my priorities stay as they were.  My wife, on the other hand, goes to the gym.

In my example, our priorities are very different.  My wife is good about gently reminding me about the basement.  I give some non-committal response.  As a parent, there is a similar prioritization difference when it comes to my daughters cleaning their rooms.  They know where there things are (in a pile somewhere) and the way their rooms look is not a priority for them, no matter how many times I gently remind them to clean up.  I know that when they get annoyed with their rooms or have a new friend come over, the priority to clean their rooms goes up and they then put aside the time to straighten up their bedrooms.  I guess that I am not much different from my kids - when I get annoyed at looking at the containers taking up usable space, my priorities will shift (and come into synch with my wife’s), and I too will “clean up.”

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wake Up, It Is Summertime!

And our hibernation period has once again come to an end and it is time to wake up and face the world!  This is how I feel each year at the end of June as we head into the summer months.  From September onward, our lives feel focused on what ends up being indoor-based activities, children off at school and preparing for the winter ahead.  While we have some semblance of a social life, once the summer comes along, our activity levels go up significantly.  Whether it is celebrating Independence Day (including the nearest weekend), graduations, parties, vacations and other social outings enjoying the warm weather, our calendar, and therefore our time, becomes very full.  This is truly a great time of the year.  The difficulty, however, becomes managing, or better put, prioritizing, our time.

I know that during the year, between spending time with my family, work, volunteering as an officer at our Jewish Center, Toastmasters, playing in a band and my social life, the months tend to be very full.  There does seem to be a certain rhythm to the weeks, as most of the activities fall into some type of cycle.  In between, I am able to take on some of the things that constitute personal development, which include reading and writing.  I understand quite well that I should not confuse activity with productivity.  I am happy to be busy and pursue the things that are important to me so that I can achieve my personal goals.  Once June comes along, I look forward to the summer related activities we choose to do.  However, this time of year throws off the balance of what I am able to accomplish.  For example, this was the first year that I missed our town fireworks.  Having a 3-day holiday weekend means more opportunities to be with family and friends. In the midst of planning the weekend, I began to realize that some of my weekly goals would be putting a crunch on my social time.  At the end of the weekend, I realized that I had to prioritize which activities had to be accomplished; as much as I enjoy the fireworks, they were not the priority.

As my girls were growing up, I have watched as each year they looked forward to their summer vacation from school.  Even though I do not have the same type of vacation any more, the way we look towards the summertime has not changed.  There is still some measure of vacation time in the pull of the warm weather, swimming in a pool and being outdoors that never seems to leave us.  We cannot stick our head in the ground and put our obligations on hold for 3 months (as much as we would like to), but we need to be diligent on how we spend our time.  I hope that everyone has a great summer, maximizing your enjoyment of this season with your goals!

Monday, July 7, 2014

What a Clown!

Someone once pointed out that it is the journey that is important, not the destination.  It is during the journey where we have the opportunity to pick up knowledge; learn new things about ourselves and others; positively impact peoples’ lives and gain wisdom.  I know that destinations and goals are important in having something(s) to strive for, which provides purpose to our days and success in our lives.  Sometimes, we have opportunities that take us slightly off our path, but nonetheless, provide personal satisfaction and have the chance to bring a smile to other people.

This was the fourth year that I have been able to put on a red nose, wear brightly colored clothes, walk around in purple shoes, don a purple derby, put on makeup, then go out in public and not think it is weird. 


That is right, that is a picture of me and how I spent part of my July 4th!  Being a clown was not something that was on my bucket list, but when I was given the opportunity at participating in a large parade as a clown, it was something that I just had to try.  First thing was to learn how to dress as a clown.  My clown friends, Juggles and Glitter, helped me with that.  Next was being able to walk 2 miles.  Got that one.  Interact, but do not scare children.  I think I can do that.  Be able to wave and high five.  Piece of cake.

The parade started and off we go.  I walk down the left side of the street.  “Hey, Clown, over here” yells some kids.  I run across the street in front of a float and high five a group of kids. Next kid asks if she can take a selfie with me…that was a first!  I give high fives to kids in strollers, kids eating ice cream, teenagers happy to join in, and even with those kids that come in older forms.  It is truly a blessed feeling to be able to see someone break into a smile when a clown comes up to him or her and gives him or her a few seconds of attention.  At some point, the parade has passed me by, and the crowd begins to break up.  Finally, I make it to the end and there are two fans waiting patiently for this clown to reach – my wife and dog.  It was a great experience and great to be able spread some happiness around. 

Afterwards, satisfied, tired and hungry, we needed an energy boost.  The picture below proves that even clowns do eat…