Month: September 2019

Follow Your Heart

What happens when, facing a choice, your heart suddenly inserts itself into the conversation? The final question in the recent Democratic presidential debate focused on resilience in the face of personal setbacks. All the candidates had strong responses, but South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg had—by almost all reviews—the most moving story. It connected at such a personal level for many because it was an account of following his heart. A military officer and elected official from a deeply conservative state, Buttigieg spoke eloquently about living in fear of the impact that would result from revealing that he was gay. Yet he reached a point, he said, where he was “not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer.” The good news ending to his story of following the heart is that “When I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and reelected me with eighty percent of the vote.” As an ambitious young politician, the safe approach …

Ballpark

The latest stop on my quest to visit all 30 Major League ballparks* found me, earlier this week, with a friend at the front gate of Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. It had taken almost an hour by train during the height of the evening commute to get from midtown Manhattan to Flushing. After stepping off the subway, I was disappointed to find the ballpark—home to one of two major league baseball teams in the nation’s largest city—in what was essentially a suburban setting, surrounded by parking lots. The game had just begun so we stopped only briefly to take in the entry rotunda, yet even that short pause made me think of the gateway to Ebbets Field, the famous home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was only later that I discovered that the ballpark was in its unfortunate location thanks to that old enemy of urbanism, Robert Moses. And yes, the owners of the Mets had appropriated the Brooklyn Dodgers and the “New York City history of the National League as …

Expectations

I have a friend who is fond of saying, “Low expectations are the key to happiness.” We always have a laugh when she says it, and I agree—to a point—with her perspective. Over time, I have learned the hard way to keep my expectations low around things I don’t control. Take  the Washington Nationals, for instance. As long as the Lerners (the owners) and Mike Rizzo (the General Manager) . . . fire and hire managers without regard for their records or experience (see: Baker, Dusty and Martinez, Davey); refuse to spend money to acquire help in the bullpen when the team obviously has a need (see: bullpen meltdown in the heat of a pennant race vs. lowly Marlins on Saturday and Sunday, September 21-22 and aforementioned Davey Martinez); and expect some of the best players in baseball (see: Rendon, Anthony) to give them a hometown discount instead of offering what they are worth on the open market . . . I find I enjoy the experience of Nationals baseball a great deal more when …

How Email Can Boost Your Success. (Seriously)

I seldom agree with every point in the countless “self improvement” articles one finds online at business sites. Scott Mautz’s recent  Inc.com article on six emails to send each week to boost your success was the rare exception. Several years ago I made the decision to stop hating email and find ways to use it more effectively and—most importantly—to use it to meet my goals. Mautz’s overall point is similar: that emails can be used proactively to fuel success. I know this sounds implausible for those who may get hundreds or thousands of emails each month and struggle just to manage the volume. But I think he’s on to something. Emails are often seen as a necessary evil. If you think instead of how they can be used for both real and affirming communication, the connection to this tool and your success becomes clearer. While I encourage you to read Mautz’s article in full, here are my takeaways about the different emails he champions. 1. The summation email — I always value someone who steps …

A Weird Night at the Ballpark

Maybe it was the full harvest moon over a packed Nationals Park on Friday the 13th.* Perhaps it was the insertion of Jason—the villain with the hockey mask from the Friday the 13th movies—into the President’s Race. (He favored Teddy for some reason unbeknownst to me.) Who knows for sure . . . but it was a weird night at the ballpark. Beginning with the national anthem. Did I mention that Washington was highlighting National Truck Driver Appreciation Week? Well, the singer of the Star Spangled Banner was a trucker who brought his guitar to the stadium. After strumming the opening chord, he sang an enthusiastic—if not exactly on-key—version, which would have been okay if he had dropped the idea of bringing the guitar back into play while still singing. Suffice it to say, our friend did not quite match the pitch of the guitar at the end of the anthem, which I could see coming. It was a “don’t give up your day job” moment. While it was a Friday night in September, it was …

Religious Freedom and the American Experiment

Few things set my father into action more than news of some fellow Baptist or other Evangelical Christian trampling over the doctrine of the separation of church and state in order to advance the views of their personal brand of religion or to persecute a faith community they saw as un-American. That rare breed of liberal Southern Evangelical Christian, my father was a regular on the Letters to the Editor page of the local newspapers, as he worked to tell his neighbors why Baptists—of all denominations—should cherish religious freedom. Just before he died, my father—a proud member of the Religious left—sent in his last letter on the topic, in response to Tennessee’s consideration of naming The Bible the official State Book. As one of his neighbors described the letter to me at his funeral, “It was a good one!” Suffice it to say that Tom Brown would have appreciated Steven Waldman’s new book, Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody, and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom as a welcome addition to our understanding of this important right. Waldman’s 2019 …

Feedback on Feedback

What do you do when someone else is providing you with feedback? Do you feel defensive? Thankful? Worried? Antagonistic? Relieved? It depends, of course, on the situation. We all get feedback from parents, spouses, siblings, partners, bosses, co-workers, friends, or even perfect strangers. Most of us also give others the benefit of our perspective. Yet, as you give advice, have you ever stopped to take the other person’s point of view and consider the ways in which you react and respond to feedback from others? Have you changed your approach in order to treat others as you would want to be treated? Providing and receiving feedback has been on my mind recently. As one navigates through more and more stages of life, I sense a natural tendency to increase the number of times we dole out our wisdom to others. Perhaps it is human nature, but we act as if we want to ensure that what we’ve learned throughout our lifetime doesn’t go with us when we head off to our reward. Sharing experiences and …