Gifts to Resolutions

This time of year, between the gift exchanges and the New Year, the resolutions start to congeald and bubble to the surface. The feelings about doing better this year, making it better. Like writing better and more frequent blog entries, and getting some pictures in here. Let’s take care of that one now…

This is one piece of several made by a niece and a nephew as they waited for Christmas midnight mass. Seeing the children of siblings in New York, some new born, some teenagers, perhaps this wonderful entry from my favorite blog would be useful. It’s career advice for young people, based on the changes happening in industry. If you’re a parent, please read! The future is not in getting a job, we have to think different for our kids.

Hey, google this!

A new verb in the english lexicon has only been around for only a few years, but it’s something many of us do many times a day — if you’re reading this, you’re on the internet. And I’d hope you already know what it is.

On the long drive back from visiting family, through several states (and a blizzard), we listened to The Google Story, courtesy of Audible.com. The depth of the changes that this new company has made to our society, and the changes that it’s technology, attitude, and values promise to bring continue to boggle my mind. Google my mind.

A couple of young students at Stanford University cobbled together a great search engine as a fun project at the university, tried to sell it to Yahoo and a few other companies, and when these successful companies wouldn’t take it, the young men were forced to market it themselves. Little did they know that in a few years time, digital marketing companies would be designing their entire business plans around the algorithm they created, for example, Dojono SEO is one of the most popular approaches to raising brand awareness now. They brought a strong value for collegiality, intense intelligence, and a desire to “do no evil”. They created a powerful company culture that was about fun and innovation. Everyone at the company was required to spend 20% of their time, one day a week, on whatever project interests them most. Imagine what impact that could have were it to be fostered in all American companies. Imagine what level of passion, enthusiasm, and integrity would be required to make that work. This is what’s coming. If your company isn’t moving in this direction, you’d better help it get there soon. Or it’s going to be a dinosaur. You know, the big beasts that used to rule, but now are gone? Companies that value their employee’s time are getting ahead without question. Even making sure every member of the workforce has access to the document management software shown at https://www.filecenterdms.com/ would be a great help.

Even having been in the computer industry since the late seventies, I didn’t get pushed finally to take Google more seriously until a non-geek brother-in-law showed me some funny videos on video.google.com. I didn’t even know about it. Hrumph. But I’d better get used to it. The non-geeks are the ones to watch to that know what’s fun and what’s cool on the internet.

And when I say fun, maybe I should say funds. Google is rolling in money right now, in case you’ve been under a rock. If you get a great idea for some web content and if you add an AdSense Google box to your site, you could be earning a decent income from the ads that people click on when they visit your site. Kids could do it. And Google’s ads aren’t ugly eyeball peeling blinking flashing “LOOK HERE!” ads that make you want to shoot your computer. No, they’re low key ads that are designed to correspond to the interests and desires of the people who like to read the content. And they’re just a line of text with a link. No flashy images. Just text. But text that earns…

Simple stuff. But brilliant. And it’s things like that which will change the way we work, play, and govern. So, you might just want to pay attention! In other words, google this! Expect more companies like google to come around. They’ve probably already gotten started.

Post Thanksgiving Thanks-Giving

This week my wife and I have been traveling between relations in the midwest, and right now I’m fortunate enough to be at the keyboard of a relative who has DSL! A few days ago in a midwest mall, I gladly paid three dollars for a couple hours of wireless internet access just to access email. I did this a few times, even when I could only use ten minutes of the two hours slots.

The ability to stay in touch with people via the internet has been a blessing. The subject of this entry is season appropriate, about giving thanks.

There’s hardly a shortage of inspirations for giving thanks. Being raised by a Catholic mother in the Church, and by an Evangelical father, Christian tradition certainly supports this concept. And giving to the church with tithings is part of that tradition too, luckily there is software nowadays like Tithe.ly that can make churches receive easier. But a modern scientific education didn’t give much credence to the simple truth of the importance of thanksgiving. The police chief greeted the agnostic cop in the sitcom “Barney Miller” with a “Happy Thanksgiving”, and the agnostic said “I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving because I don’t know who to give thanks to.” The chief said “It’s just a way of saying, ‘How are ya, Buddy!’ So, Happy Thanksgiving!”. And the agnostic cop replied “How are ya, Buddy!”

Well, agnosticism was my path after high school until meditation and difficulties turned me back toward religion in my late twenties. At that point, I started to see many simple proofs for the value of Spirituality and of the existence of a higher being. And there have been a number of wonderful teachings of the value of giving thanks that don’t even center on a All Knowing, All Seeing, Being in the Sky that unfortunately for many is clothed in unpalatable traditional garb that seems to need changing.

One of the great teachers and mentors that have clarified and expanded on the value of appreciation and giving thanks are Kurt and Patricia Wright. Giving appreciation actually benefits the giver by training the mind to focus on and find value. If you’ve ever bought a car, you’ve probably experienced the sudden appearance of your vehicle all over the road. Your model of Volkswagon or Ford Truck was probably covering the road in the same numbers before and after your purchase. But your mind was suddenly tuned into finding your make and model. The same goes with finding value. If you have the choice between picking up a piece of trash or a 20 dollar bill, we’d all easily choose the 20 dollar bill. Yet, when it comes to the trash we pick up and hold in our minds, most of us are much less discriminatory. Deliberate appreciation is just good training of the mind to pick up the good stuff! And the more we train our minds in this direction, the more good things and great opportunities we’ll be able to see and enjoy.

A very interesting thing happened on the drive back east. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on the length of the driving, the inconvenience, the poor driving habits of others, or bad road conditions. Instead I started asking value-generating questions, things that Kurt and Patricia Wright recommend we do. What do I like about this road? What’s great about the snow I’m seeing? I did this for about five minutes. I had been a little depressed, and after a while my mind drifted away from this little exercise. What shocked me was realizing a short while later I was in a tremendously good mood, and I was able to offer jokes and cheerfulness that not only lifted my own spirits, but that of my passenger.

So now some practice. This is really for my own benefit, but perhaps it can be an example. What are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving holiday? What am I grateful for? I’m grateful for having supportive loving parents who’ve stayed together all my life despite many difficulties. I’m grateful for the love and support of my wife, and the opportunity to know her more deeply through knowing her family as we travel between them here in the mid-west. I’m grateful for a job that helps me grow as a person. I’m grateful for the Chantilly Theatre, that has taught me some valuable lessons about selfishness versus true leadership.

That just reminded me of Peter Drucker. In his book “Managing the Non-Profit Organization” was something that really blew me away, as I’ve spent years in self-development with less than the results I’d hoped for and Drucker relates that a good leader doesn’t think “I”, he or she thinks “we”. Not from self-training, but because the true leader identifies with the team and focuses on the task and the mission. I’m very grateful for that lesson this Thanksgiving!

God Bless!

Spiritual Busy Signal

A particular audiobook from Audible.com, called “Never Eat Alone” has been a large inspiration reccently. It’s a business book that describes how to network so that you never eat alone. Business books might not seem to fit with spiritual topics. Some might consider it practically an oxymoron – business and spirit – but some of Keith Ferazzi’s book was explicitly spiritual.

There was plenty of material that was great for building a career in business, but the best benefits from listening was the recognition of how important it is to find mentors and mentees. In my highschool, the home room was called our mentor group. Yet it is only as I get older that the importance of mentors becomes crystal clear.

A real aha from “Never Eat Alone” was that human relationships are not like bank accounts that get deminished from withdrawals. When we ask someone for help, we actually make the relationship stronger. Saving a favor, keeping score, are certain ways to kill our network. Learn to ask for help. It’s one of the greatest benefits received from attending Jim and Michele McCarthy’s software development bootcamp. So many people struggle unnecessarily when help is just a question away. But as the book shows, it doesn’t harm our relationships, it builds them. We just need to be willing to help too.