All posts filed under: Monday Musings

Thoughts to start off the work week

Something More Significant

In her 2018 study Leadership in Turbulent Times, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin tackles a subject that could not be more relevant. Drawing on the life and lessons of four U.S. presidents, Goodwin holds up the achievements, foibles, and resilience of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. She examines how each came to be known for leadership as they dealt with civil war, the inequalities of the Industrial Age, the twin crises of global economic depression and war, and, finally, the struggle for civil rights. Leadership, in other words, in times of crisis and transformation. Something like the times we are in at the moment. I’m in the midst of reading Goodwin’s study. However, her examination in the opening chapter of the young Abraham Lincoln, and one quality she calls out from that period, came to mind this week after hearing the hate speech of the current resident of the White House directed at Somali Americans in Minnesota. In contrast to the powerful having a sense that they can bully and hurt …

All That’s Left to Learn

Gap years provide opportunities to try something new or—if your time off comes later in life—to return and revisit neglected passions. In the last six months I’ve taken a writing course. I’ve incorporated my long-time love of guitar playing into my daily routine. A course on wine or bourbon tasting, to gain fresh insights into a couple of my more pleasurable pursuits, may be in my future. Perhaps I’ll use the new bike path that runs in front of our house as the impetus to rekindle my passion for cycling. And while I’d given yoga a chance in the past, there were always other, seemingly more important, calls on my attention. But I now find myself here, in my gap year, returning to the yoga studio. There’s a very logical reason for making this move: my muscles and joints were crying out for more flexibility. Several months ago I tripped while stepping off the train in London and fell to the concrete platform, landing directly on my right knee. For a number of weeks the …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Resisting the Pressure of Reality

Labor Day is a time to refocus and rejuvenate. Facebook feeds are full of pictures of students heading off to the first day of school. Summer vacations are wrapped up and business activity picks up. After the news lull of the summer months . . . Wait . . there was no summer news lull? Unless you were disciplined enough to cut off your electronic devices and stop your newspaper deliveries, I suspect you know about Greenland and Denmark. The proposed nuclear (as in bomb) response to hurricanes. Our where-do-we-stand-this-hour trade war with China. Immigrant children dying in U.S. custody. Home-grown domestic terrorists killing men, women, and children in never-ending mass shootings. An unwillingness on the part of one of our political parties to protect our system of electing the country’s leaders. Dismantling of critical environmental protections. Selling off public land to the highest bidder. Disarray in the G-7. Staggering income inequality and a wildly fluctuating stock market. And that was just last week. I fear we are coming to a point where many will …