Sunday, 26 February 2012

My listening's going as I age...

You know, it seems backward, but it seems like I've gotten worse at listening to people as I've gotten older.

People say that as you age, you gain wisdom from your life experience right?  I think my problem is that I took that theory to heart.  I jumped to the part where I think I'm wise, but I skipped over the part where you actually do the gaining of the wisdom.

See, wisdom doesn't come with age.  Being old comes with age.  Wisdom comes with practice over time.

So, when I catch myself turning a conversation back to myself and my experiences, because my sagely wisdom has a solution for the person, I'm actually being the opposite of wise.  I can't learn anything from someone if I'm filling the airwaves with stuff I already know.

I think I need to learn to shut up and listen.  Most people feel more 'heard' if I DON'T offer advice or answers.  That's not why people talk to me.

I have a theory that advice follows supply and demand principles.  If you have lots of it to offer, people won't be asking you for it.  If you keep your opinions under your hat as a rule, you might find that people might seek them out a little more regularly.

So, give people a longer listen than you're used to.  We both might learn a little more.  And I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way about advice: If you're getting it for free it's not worth much.

Monday, 20 February 2012


Know what I really enjoy?  Those days when it seems like everything you read and everyone you talk to seems to be continuing a conversation about a particular topic.

Now, there's a good chance that this only happens to me because of my lack of self-awareness, which leads me to turn every conversation back to me, and the topics I want to talk about.  I'm working on that.

Nevertheless, I enjoy ricocheting through conversations and articles.  Once in a while, the stars line up and two ideas smash into each other like particles in the hadron collider, creating a crystallizing effect where a bunch of concepts from random areas arrange themselves into a new coherence.  Was that too many metaphors? I counted four in two sentences.

In a recent interview with Success magazine, Marc Ostrofsky, a dotcom entrepreneur and author, said that the people who really make it aren't the 'creators'.  They're the 'producers' - like in the movie biz - the ones who can take the right actor, the right director, the right investors, and the right screenplay and put them in the same room.  It doesn't need to be the titans of any of those fields.  It does need the right chemistry.

While I may not be a venture capitalist like Ostrofsky, I like this idea. Apple needed Steve Wozniak to develop the software, but it REALLY needed Steve Jobs to do the other, less concrete work of figuring out how to get an awesome idea from being stuck in a brain or in prototype mode to out - to the masses.  Maybe I like this idea because my particular stengths involve digesting information, creating ideas, and recognizing people's differences but also how people are connected (by the way, if you've never read and done online test for the book 'Strengthsfinder 2.0' go do it.  I hate personality tests, but this was REALLY enlightening).  So I'm kind of wired for connecting people who complement each other strategically.

Collecting information from disparate sources is a valuable way to come up with a new solution for an old problem.  Chances are, if you're a schoolteacher, you might have a problem similar to one that farmers have been solving for years with a principle that you can bring across.

What's your opinion?  Tell me what your thoughts are.  Because I'm selfish, and I don't get smarter if I don't learn anything from you.  Leave me a comment and lets keep the conversation going.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Just Who Else Are You Trying To Be Anyway?

So, I had to leave church early today, because my son wouldn't stop crying when it was time to stop playing with the toy trains and listen to the bible story.

I gotta hand it to him.  He taught me something.

He's like the dude who goes to church cause he has a crush on the church girl... only my son's motives aren't concealed.  He goes to church to play with the train set.  And the slide, a little bit.  He might be the only person who knows exactly what his motivation is to go to church on any given Sunday morning.  And he's not pretending it's anything other than what it is.

You know, that's why I often feel more comfortable hanging around non-churchers than churchers.  Because so many religious people are trying to be something they just can't be: perfect.  And when they act and talk like they already are, it makes the rest of us feel... guilty.  I have a really hard time with a LOT of what happens on the stage at church for that reason.  Are you performing?  Are you putting on airs?  Or are you really this happy clappy? In which case I hate you anyway.

The people I find myself drawn to are the ones who aren't trying to be anything other than what they are.  Not hiding weaknesses or doubt.  Not concealing the fact that life sometimes sucks.  Bad.  People who will tell you they don't know the answer to the question.  But who are trying to find the best way to live their life.  Pretending you've already arrived is a great way to avoid having to do the hard work required when you acknowledge that your life, your relationships, or your personality isn't as awesome as it could be.

I might feel like the most cynical person who goes to church any Sunday I'm there. But I keep going because I'm being honest about where I'm 'at'.  And I still need to be there.  Now don't get me wrong - there are a lot of honest, sincere, and wonderful people who go to churches.  There's just also a tendency to have a simple answer to a complicated life question in that culture.

But religious people are just the example here.  People put on airs in a LOT of different ways.  For example, did you know that something like 90% of luxury cars are owned by people who can't afford them (and no, I have no reference for that, but it SEEMS right, doesn't it)? It's like music.  There's great rock and crappy rock.  There's great country and crappy country, and so on.  And the difference is usually whether the songs are honest.  And just like music, every once in a while you stumble across someone who's 'the real deal', regardless of whether their interests are the same as yours.

Have the tenacity to spot those people.  You can stick to like-minded people from your demographic who may or may not be shallow, or you can find people from all over the place who are being honest, and they'll teach you much, and make your life a lot richer.

And here's the takeaway for me and you: we would do well to be more like my son. Be straight about your intentions, be clear about your expectations.  Why are you in the relationships you're in? Why do you do the things you do?  Be intentional about it.  That's called integrity - meaning, you're the same on the inside as you are on the outside.  It will make you stable and reliable.  People know what to expect from you, and they'll be drawn to your example.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Keeping Yourself Occupied

So, I'm walking out of the downtown Red Deer library with my son on Sunday, and what should I see but this, set up outside City Hall?

What you might not see is that there is a sign on the poster that says, "If you've come for the demonstration, we went to the coffee shop down the road for a bit."

So my first reaction was to put the picture on social media with a sarcastic comment about how they can't even occupy their own protest (MAN I'm clever).  Then I realized a couple more things: 1. The coffee shop they went to sells THE most expensive cup of joe in Red Deer (to my knowledge). 2. The store is owned by a city councillor.

This is interesting because my next appointment was to meet with said city councillor in said coffee shop.  As this years president of the Central Alberta chapter of the Canadian Home Builders Association, I had some things to discuss.  Needless to say, I was very aware of the juxtaposition as I walked in to the coffee shop.  The 3:30 appointment was the 99% (though that totalled 5, in this case).  The 4:00 appointment was the local industry advocate, trying to create a better business environment for his members.

So, we took a moment to appreciate the irony, and carried on with our meeting.  But I appreciated something the intelligent, well spoken councillor said.  He mentioned that he had recently been lambasted by a 'revolutionary' blogger, and he wondered if the blogger realized how non-1%-y he is... what with hosting the occupy movement at his coffee shop so they can warm up before going back to picketing his other office and all.

After all my judgmental thoughts, I realized that all of us had ended up at that coffee shop for the same reason that day. I joined the home builders' association for a few reasons.  Some are related to my own company and growing my network.  But some just have to do with the fact that I really like this city, and I want to be involved in improving it.  The city councillor became a city councillor because he feels strongly about the city, and wants to be involved in the direction it goes - because he's passionate, and likely because he has much invested in the outcome (as a downtown business owner, he must).

And the protesters?  Well, perhaps they felt that they didn't have the avenue that the councillor or I had.  But I suspect that this is the best avenue they felt they had to be part of the conversation.  Does Red Deer have ANY of the top 1% of income earners in Canada?  Maybe, but not many. I don't think these guys wanted to overthrow them and swap houses or anything anyway.  Maybe it's just that this is the only way they felt they could be heard.

And I get that.  Because I feel like it's hard to be heard from where I stand, too.  And I bet even the city councillor feels the same way from time to time.  Even the best ideas, once they churn through layers of consulations and approvals, become dumbed down, less potent versions of their earlier selves.  That's the curse of democracy.  We will only ever get a maximum of 75% of a good idea, once it's made its way through the red tape.

So, keep yourselves occupied, occupiers.  We're not so different.  We're all just trying to find our way to a seat at the proverbial table.

My only caution is this: keep things constructive.  Compromise is the blessing and the curse of democracy.  There is no room for inflexibility, for stonewalling.  Every stakeholder gets to weigh in.  Every opinion gets counted.  There is no value in trying to stop or undermine the conversation.  In 60 years, we will end up somewhere.  You're not going to be able to roll that stone backward.  But you might get to steer it a bit, if you're in the right place at the time that it goes by.