Month: March 2018

What Do You Think About in the Shower

I began a recent conversation with, “I was thinking about this earlier today in the shower.”  You may think that’s too much information to share at work, but I believe that the time we use to think in the shower is critical to our productivity and creativity.  Paul Graham goes further to say “it’s hard to do a really good job on anything you don’t think about in the shower.” I have certainly wrestled day after day with issues, becoming disheartened over time. It takes different ways of thinking at different times to push through the fog. Hard problems don’t lend themselves to easy analysis.  And yet, one day you’ll find yourself walking, daydreaming, or — in this most recent case — in the shower, and the path becomes clear. When I am most productive, I find that the issues that are top of mind are the fundamental ones to my job or life. When I’m flailing, my top of mind issues are unimportant or, even worse, distractions. I have found that by being aware …

What’s the Rush?

Spring is a season when the pace quickens. To snap out of the winter doldrums, we feel the need to rush.  Projects are suddenly due.  Deadlines appear to be on top of us every day.  Travel demands increase. In the rushing rhythm of the days, I find it necessary to maintain my perspective if I’m going to keep my equilibrium.  Thankfully, I came across an essay which helped me put the pressure to rush in perspective. Robyn Ryle is a sociologist and writer who I first met when she spoke at our National Main Street conference.  Robyn lives in Madison, Indiana — one of the country’s great Main Street communities — where she teaches sociology, writes books on changing notions of gender, and blogs about place (among other topics) on the web site You Think Too Much.  There is wisdom in her tales of life away from the coasts.  As I read her essay on driving the speed limit, I immediately felt myself slow down. “Today I picked up my book of daily yoga and read, …

Have the Courage to Change Your Mind

By the time I first met John Buchanan, he had finished his eight terms in the U.S. Congress as a Republican representing Birmingham, Alabama. This third generation Baptist minister was long past the time when he was targeted for defeat in 1980 by the Moral Majority.  He was even past his term as the founding chairman of the liberal lobbying group People for the American Way.  When I met John and his wife Betty in the 1990s, they were the loving and selfless grandparents to a granddaughter who was in a youth group with our twins.  However, their intellect, courage, sense of public service, and generous spirit were still very much in evidence in everything they touched. Betty died in 2011, and I was thinking about our connections and their lives after I heard the news of John’s passing on March 5th at the age of 89.  John had the courage to change his mind, even at the cost of his political future.  First elected in the Republican wave of 1964, following the passage of …

Celebrating International Women’s Day

I made a resolution in 2016 to return and read Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me once or twice a year, just to keep that clear voice and perspective front of mind.  International Women’s Day seemed to be a special moment this year to act on that resolution. I took time today during my lunch break to read, once again, of the silencing that occurs when men talk over women.  As Solnit phrases it, “Being told that, categorically, he knows what he’s talking about and she doesn’t, however minor a part of any given conversation, perpetuates the ugliness of this world and holds back its light.”  We are living in an age when our civic discourse shows just how serious the impacts of this silencing can be.  Solnit ends the postscript to the original essay by noting, “Having the right to show up and speak are basic to survival, to dignity, and to liberty.” I think about this dynamic a great deal.  When I’m learning from and celebrating the accomplishments of women, I am …

I Am Still Every Age That I Have Been

It was a big week in our household, as we acquired a new hip and celebrated a birthday.*  As a small child, you may have received a new puppy on your special day.  Others years may bring clothes for college or gifts for the new apartment. Later, you might rejoice with a new child or a special trip abroad. On occasion one might celebrate a birthday with a broken shoulder.  Now that we’re in the new hip stage (for a second time), I’m comforted by this thought of the author Madeleine L’Engle: “I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be… This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages…the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide… Far too …

Thoughts for a Birthday

Birthdays are funny things.  You know intellectually that you are only one day older than you were the day before. But the flipping of the year – in my case from 62 to 63 – has effects that have nothing to do with intellect and everything to do with your emotions. In approaching this year’s birthday, I’ve been focused on the fact that life is short.  I’ve written in the past about the need to savor every moment.  However, when you truly recognize that life is short, you think about how that knowledge will change the way you live. You begin to think about the things that matter, and the things that get in the way of the things that matter. I can only speak from the perspective of someone still in the workplace, but it is easy to find all-too-many instances from the working world that get in the way of your focus on what matters: useless meetings without agenda or purpose, process designed without thought, colleagues looking to you to do their work. …