Month: September 2017

Bubbles. Lots and Lots of Bubbles.

On a visit to Mohonk Mountain House earlier this year, I took the opportunity to reconnect with Dr. Nina Smiley.  Nina has the wonderful title of Director of Mindfulness Programming at this Victorian-era resort that has been in the Smiley family since 1869.  I first met Nina almost twenty years ago when she was serving on the board of the National Trust’s Historic Hotels of America, and she remains one of the most thoughtful, perceptive, strong, yet gentle people I know.  Talking with Nina is—to put it simply—a joy. When we spoke in March, the topic turned—naturally—to mindfulness.  As the author of The Three Minute Meditator, Nina believes that mindfulness can be just minutes away if we give thought to how we communicate with ourselves.  That often requires recognition that our self-talk can be taking us away from the moment and leading us into a negative rut.  In the course of the conversation, Nina suggested as an exercise taking a simple task that you do multiple times a day—such as washing your hands—and using that …

Multitasking (Or Another Word for “Not Paying Attention”)

How well do you think you can multitask?  Let’s take a little test.  Click on this one-minute You Tube video and see how well you do.  You will need your sound, so in an open office environment either use headphones or turn the volume down a notch or two. If all of you are like the 30 colleagues I joined last week in a retreat, no one will ace the test.  That’s because it is impossible to give your full attention to two things simultaneously.  (Don’t confuse this with my recent note about keeping two opposing ideas in your mind.  Very different concepts.) The retreat leader used this as the kick-off to the day’s discussion, and added a confession:  she often finds herself multitasking in meetings.  As recently as the Friday before the retreat, she was on a call with individuals from around the country.  She was also using the time to check email.  She confessed that more than once, she looked up and thought, “I don’t have a clue what was just said.”  In …

Communication

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” This observation was included in a recent online post about the history of jargon, and it got my attention.  I’ve been writing and reading a boat-load of reports, letters, and proposals in the past few weeks, and I know how easy it is to make the mistake of thinking that communication has “taken place.”  I’ve made the mistake myself recently, on more than one occasion. “Excessive use of jargon can weigh down our communication and can be taxing to listeners. It may make it more difficult for others to grasp the full meaning behind our message. Worst of all, using jargon can be distancing. It may make some listeners feel excluded because they may not understand all the jargon and buzzwords being used—especially if it comes on thick and fast.” So what, according to the author, tops the current list of bothersome business buzzwords?  Synergy.  Low-hanging fruit.  Thinking outside the box.  This summer I bought a card featuring the famous New …

Clinch!

You never know when you draw a September day at the park in the season ticket package if the game you pick will be meaningful.  But around Friday, I realized that today’s game could be the one where the Nats clinch the 2017 National League East Division title. I had tickets for Sunday at Nationals Park.  Nats vs. the Phillies.  And the magic number of National wins or Marlins losses was two!  Woo hoo! Sarah, a colleague from work, joined me, and we laughed when we both  showed up in our 2012 East Division champions gear.  I told Candice as I left for the ballpark that I was wearing my hat for good luck, since I bought it the night they clinched that year when we were both at the park.  Candice replied, “Well good.  At least you won’t have to buy a new hat.”  She needn’t worry…I’m not buying any new playoff/championship gear until we get to a World Series. Today sure was a fun day at the park.  Stephen Strasburg was brilliant through …

There is Nothing Like Paradox to Take the Scum Off Your Mind

I’ve long been fascinated with paradox and its place in our understanding of the world around us.  When I recently heard historian Patty Limerick quote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes as saying, “There is nothing like paradox to take the scum off your mind,” I sat up and paid attention.  That’s a more earthy way of phrasing the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote which I’ve often used:  “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Paradox is hard, but writer Anne Lamott asserts that “all truth is paradox.”  Life is a beautiful gift. At the same time it can be impossibly difficult. As the old Albert King blues song puts it, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” To keep from having to keep two opposing ideas in our head at the same time, we often find ourselves moving toward certainty.  Theologian Paul Tillich has described this challenge in the spiritual realm by saying that …

Welcoming Emily to the Family

Candice and I spent this Labor Day weekend in Chicago at the wedding of our nephew David Brown Ghattas (catchy name, huh?) and Emily Ames.  David—an engineer just like his father and grandfather—is the oldest son of my youngest sister Carol and her late husband Raouf. Emily is a wonderful young lady he met while they were both in Istanbul a few years ago.  We had the chance to meet Emily at my father’s 90th birthday celebration in 2015, and have enjoyed getting to know her (and now her family) over the past couple of years. As my nephew Joseph Brown said to me somewhere along the weekend, it is great to be getting together for weddings as opposed to funerals, and I couldn’t agree more. Families are funny things.  When you have a relatively big one like ours (five siblings and lots of nieces, nephews, and in-laws), there are bound to be some differences.  The differences in ours are pretty substantial.  I’ll just leave it at that.  But love trumps all (pun intended), and …