A Day at the Museum

I’ve been doing some virtual museum visits. One of the things I miss during this pandemic is finding the solace in staring at great works of art. As I’ve “strolled” through the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery, MOMA, and the Met, I’ve been wondering how these masterpieces might be interpreted in today’s environment. Lots of these were inspired by wars, depressions, and other life altering events. These take on a new and possibly different relevance today.

American Gothic

American Gothic – Grant Wood

I lost my job. I haven’t worked in weeks. We’re stuck together sheltering in place. Neither one of us is happy.

 

 

 

 

 

NighthawksNighthawks – Edward Hopper

I lost my job today and I don’t know how I can go home and face my family. I’ve been sitting in this café since noon.

 

Card PlayersThe Card Players – Paul Cezanne

None of us has any work. We sit, smoke, play cards and pray for the time to pass.

 

 

Sunday Afternoon

 

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – George Seurat

The theatres are closed, the restaurants are closed, our jobs are closed. All we can do is take another walk in the park. Seems like every day is Sunday.

 

Crying GirlCrying Girl – Roy Lichtenstein

I can’t believe I got Riffed.

 

 

 

 

The GleanersThe Gleaners – Jean Francois Millet

I’ve got an MBA and I’m doing this?!?

 

 

 

 

Woman Writing LetterWoman Writing a Letter – Ter Borch

I’m never going to finish this resume. Do I need a cover letter?

 

 

 

 

 

the-screamThe Scream – Edvard Munch

No explanation necessary.

Try Something

david-full-frontYour first job will not be your last job, or very likely your last career. You’re going to try lots of things in your work life and as they say in Silicon Valley, fail fast. Get the false starts out of the way early. This will help you to figure out your true path. Don’t stay with a mistake just because you’ve invested months, or even years in doing it.

Take what I call the “Michelangelo approach” to your career. Allegedly, when a visitor saw the finished David sculpture they asked him, “How do you look at a block of marble and see the David?” Michelangelo was reputed to be a very snarky fellow, as many artists are, and replied, “You just chip away everything that’s not David.” Start chipping away everything that’s not you. But the only way you’ll know is if you try. So, try something. It’s better to try something and fail than to try nothing and succeed. Don’t be afraid it won’t be perfect, be afraid of being in the same indecisive place you are today a year from now.

Sam Levene said, “Learn from the mistakes of others, you don’t have time to make them all yourself.” Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, no one got where they are without help. No one does it alone. But at some point, you’re going to have to take responsibility for what you produce. Like the people who created the Declaration of Independence, make sure you create something that you’re proud to sign your name to. And remember, 56 people created and signed the Declaration of Independence. No one gets there alone.

declaration of independence

What are you looking at?

cell-phones

 

You walk slower when you’re looking at your phone. It’s a fact. Walking the streets of Manhattan. Trying to get across a crowded subway platform or train station. Walking down the hall in the office. You walk slower when you’re looking at your phone.

So what are you looking at? Is it really that important? And what are you missing? Who’s way are you in and who are you blocking? Who’s behind you desperately trying to get by as you meander along? FYI, I refer to people walking while staring at their phones as “meanderthals.”

Now besides slowing me down, you’re slowing yourself down as well and you’re the one missing everything going on around you. You’re not just depriving me of my cardio New York speed walk but you’re depriving yourself. But this is not just a rant about people walking while talking on their phones though I’m sure there are plenty of you who’ll chime in with your own complaints. (I’m guessing I may get more comments on this post than many others.)

Whatever’s happening on your phone (cat videos?) is probably less important than something else you can be doing. What other distractions are you looking at when you need to be focusing on the really important people or things? Don’t let yourself get slowed down by staring at the unimportant things in life. Put down your “phone,” whatever that is, and look at the sky, the beautiful buildings and where you’re going. Because you’re going to get there a lot faster if you’re not looking at all the shiny things, screens, squirrels and countless distractions today’s world throws in your path.

What are you looking at?sunsetbridge-view

stone-street

Oh, Snap!

Finger splint

Usually in December I get my wife some shiny adornment for her hand, neck or ears. This year I was the one who added a shiny new accessory. The finger splint you see above that I started wearing after I snapped the extensor tendon in my right index finger. This isn’t something I recommend under any circumstances but especially not when the windchill is about to plummet to negative numbers and the splint, besides getting very cold, prevents one from wearing gloves.

But being an optimist, I look on the bright side. I had to slow down. I was forced to rethink how I did just about everything. I’m right-hand dominant to an extreme. The only thing my left hand is good for is to keep my watch from slipping off my wrist. So I really had to think through just about everything I do. Hold a pen, type, eat, wash, all simple stuff until you try to do these things either one-handed or with a hand that’s not used to doing them. And I really had to consider what I was doing and only do that which is really important.

I’m going to be in some kind of splint for about two months at least, and that’s assuming this heals and doesn’t require surgery. It’s sometimes frustrating to not be able to do everything I want, but it’s also freeing. I’ve been doing more reading. I’ve thought more about some things I want to write and while typing is difficult, dictating is not. Technology can be a blessing in a situation like this. There’s all kinds of workarounds in life, sometimes we just need our bodies to remind us to look for them.

Focus on what’s really important and take care of yourself in 2018. You never know when something’s about to snap.

The Cost of Doing Business

Bill O'ReillyLots of people are pointing at Bill O’Reilly’s firing as a triumph against sexual harassment and discrimination against women in the workplace. I’m not so sure. For years his employer, 21st Century Fox and Fox News had quietly paid over $13 million to settle harassment suits. This was considered the cost of doing business. It was part of their culture to tolerate, condone and cover up his misdeeds and those of others.

Some say it was the women who spoke out against O’Reilly who brought him down. Others attribute the decision to the wives of the CEO’s sons who insisted O’Reilly be fired. Many people who support O’Reilly will blame and demonize the women who work there for taking down their idol and chief Fox News rainmaker. They’re wrong. Fox terminated O’Reilly because over 50 advertisers deserted his show and the network. The cost of doing business with sexual harassers just went up. When the cost got too high — and clearly $13 million wasn’t too high a threshold for Fox — that’s when they took action. This was a business decision, not an organization taking a stand against workplace harassment and discrimination.

We’ll eventually learn the true impact of O’Reilly’s exit. But I’m not holding my breath. When something like harassment, for any reason, is tolerated and accepted for so long it gets ingrained in the culture. I fear that there’ll be more polarization between groups and more distrust. Sadly, sexual harassers will take this as a signal to be even more discreet in their attempts to exert their power over others. I doubt that we’ll see a turnaround in the culture at Fox. I hope I’m wrong.

Evil-doers beware!

Lately I’ve been receiving dozens of messages that people want to join my mailing list and receive my updates and blogposts. Now while I’d love to believe that suddenly scores of people had recognized my brilliance and couldn’t go another day without hearing from me, my social media antennae told me otherwise. After investigating some of the e-mail addresses, several of which looked rather suspect, I was able to determine that many of them, probably all, came from sources of spam. Seems these evil-doers want access to my site, probably for nefarious purposes.

Rest assured that I haven’t granted access to any of the requests that I’ve received in the past few days. THIS SITE IS SAFE. And so are you. I’m going to keep somewhat quiet until this storm passes over and the situation is resolved.

If you are a real person interested in hearing more from me and you sent a legit request in the past week, please send me a personalized e-mail letting me know and I’ll be happy to add you to the distribution. But I won’t be adding any that obviously came from bots.

If only they’d use their powers for good and not evil.

Dr Evil

How well do you have to do your job?

Are you willing to sign you name to your work? Would you want everyone walking by to know who was responsible for these efforts? What if the work was as simple as concrete?

sidewalk1

They say there are few things as boring as watching cement dry. Yet it seems that contractors in Toronto take a lot of pride in how their cement has dried. While walking around I saw all these imprints embedded in the sidewalks. On closer inspection I realized these were the names of different contractors who’d laid these sidewalks. I’ll bet most people don’t even notice. But it sure seems important to the people who created these walkways. Important enough for the contractors to have signed their name. It’s branding no doubt, but it’s more than that.

sidewalk2

If you know that everyone walking by is going to know who created that street, I think you’re going to do a better job. Because if the work is slipshod, everyone’s going to know that too. If the pavement cracks or chips and someone slips or trips, that unfortunate individual will have an up close view of who is to blame. At best, a soiled reputation. At worst, lawsuits.

sidewalk3

It’s been proven that even the idea that someone may be watching inspires people to do better work. Some of the imprints were over 40 years old. Most likely some of the people who laid those sidewalks are no longer around to walk on them. The evidence of their good work lives on. How good is your work? Would you sign it knowing that it would be around for decades? Someone is watching.

sidewalk4

People make a difference

airline seatMore and more it seems that the more you pay the less you get. On a recent flight, if I wanted to pick my seat before I arrived at the airport on the day of the flight, there was an additional charge. I’m not talking about getting an upgrade or extra legroom; I’m just talking about picking a seat. Really? It sure seemed like coercion. “Oh, yes, you’re paying to get on our plane but without a few more dollars we get to decide where you’re going to sit. How about row 39, middle seat?” Now it all turned out okay and it was a lovely flight but not because of the airline. It was because of the people.

flight attendantsWhen you get right down to it, whether it’s Delta, American, United or any other airline, the plane is pretty much the same. What differentiates one airline from another is the people, the service you get on board and at the gate. That’s why so many people are fans of Southwest. Some Southwest patrons actually look forward to their flights!

Sam Walton famously said, “Treat your employees the way you’d like them to treat your best customers.” Okay, that may have been a long time ago and I know that Wal-Mart has made the news lately over the way their employees are treated at some locations. But let’s look at the underlying philosophy.

Employees look to their managers and leaders as role models for how to behave. What are you showing to your employees? We’re no longer in a manufacturing or agricultural economy. Everything today is about customer service and information. Bill Gates said, “Whoever has the best information, wins.” I believe that the best service wins, assuming that everything else, like which plane you’re on, is relatively equal. Every person in your organization must be a superior customer service representative of your company. I’ve heard people in some functions say, “I’m not customer facing.” Here are two things I know. One, if your employees aren’t serving the customer, they’re serving someone who is. Two, if employees are not giving good service to their customers, internal or external, then your external customers will go elsewhere to get the service they want.

Just about everyone has heard, at one time or other, some senior leader pontificate that, “People are our most important asset.” It’s been repeated so often it’s become a bitter punch line in some organizations. But people really are the key differentiator between you and your competition. The companies that find, retain and develop the best people are the ones who reap the greatest profitability per employee. Companies need to invest in developing their people rather than spending their resources on churning through staff. When I was a recruiting manager, I never complained about filling a position. I did get annoyed at having to fill it repeatedly because the manager had driven away another good employee.

Training managers in how to treat their people is one of the best investments an organization can make. The organization will save on staffing and training because your managers won’t just be managers.  As they model the behavior they want staff to demonstrate, they’ll also be trainers developing their people. And that’s where it all begins and ends.

Need a little motivation?

post-its

 

Or a little inspiration on a Friday afternoon? Here you go. 120+ motivational quotes compiled by Carol Roth of Tough Love for Business.

 

 

There’s great quotes from Vince Lombardi, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Peter Drucker, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Yoda and yours truly. I’m in there at #65!

Take a look to see what I submitted as well as all these other great quotes. A great way to end, or start, your week!