Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Opposing Viewpoints


"You can always tell when a man is well informed. His views are pretty much like your own."
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I'm frustrated this election year by the fact that the people in this country with different points of view are speaking past and about each other, rather than to and with each other. There's no real dialogue at all. We seem to be afraid to actually listen to one another, to understand viewpoints other than our own.

My law school dean, Rex E. Lee, who served four years as Solicitor General of the United States and argued 59 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, liked to say that if you don't grasp your opponent's side well enough that you could pick up his brief and present the case in his place, then you don't really understand your own position.

He wasn't suggesting you need to believe what your opponent is saying; to the contrary. He was teaching that the ability to listen carefully to, dissect, and fully comprehend an opposing viewpoint will make you better informed and ultimately a stronger advocate for your own position, because we think better by seeing contrast. I think that's advice we could all use this election year.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Deadlines


"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." 
- Douglas Adams 

Deadlines, I've learned, can either bless us or crush us. Used appropriately, deadlines are useful tools for defining our priorities and focusing our energy. They help us get done the things that matter most.
A deadline is dangerous, however, when it morphs from servant to master. A deadline established or perpetuated haphazardly, without conscious intention, takes on a life of its own. It becomes a law unto itself. Then, like the proverbial tail wagging the dog, it unbalances our lives and throws everything out of kilter.
So, how do we keep deadlines from running amok and ruining our lives? Simple: we never make or accept a deadline not aligned with our deepest purposes. We articulate our most important values, we set deadlines intentionally, and then we live with integrity.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Snowflakes in a Winter Storm

"Always remember that you are  
absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. "
- Margaret Mead 

It's an interesting paradox: there's no one else in the whole world just like us, and yet we all have much in common with every other person on Earth. Like snowflakes in a winter storm, we're unique but not unusual.
From time to time, each of us feels a bit odd and out of step with the world, and yearns to be reassured that that's OK. But the truth is that our individual needs are not that different from those of everyone around us. Most of the joys and worries each of us carries in our heart are shared by most of humanity. There may be six billion one-of-a-kind humans on the planet, but only a handful of concerns to understand and address.
One sure path to success is the capacity to honor individual uniqueness while solving collective problems. Those who can make each person they meet feel special and uniquely appreciated for who they are, while delivering widely-applicable solutions, will find that the world beats a path to their door. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Smarty Pants


"People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do."
- Isaac Asimov

I find it ironic that we sometimes treasure in ourselves the same attributes that annoy us in others. "Know-it-all-ness" is one of those.

It's good to know lots of things; being in this business requires a large reservoir of knowledge.  But there's a big difference between being smart and being a smart-aleck, between being wise and being a wiseacre.  One is a joy to be with.  The other is insufferable.

So where's the line?  And how can we recognize the difference when it comes to ourselves?  That may just be the hardest thing of all for us to learn.  "It takes considerable knowledge to realize the extent of our own ignorance."  Thomas Sowell.  But I believe discovering that is the beginning of wisdom.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Crisis Management


"There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full."  
- Henry A. Kissinger

Usually when my schedule is too full for a crisis, it means the same thing as when I can't find an important paper lost somewhere in my office: I've let my life or my office get too cluttered.  I've let urgent things get in the way of important things. 

Allowing unimportant stuff to encumber our calendars or our desks saps our energy and makes us joyless and inefficient.  The only cure is to take time to re-evaluate our priorities and then get rid of clutter.  "Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least." - Stephen R. Covey.

Like barnacles clinging to the hull of a ship, clutter creates drag, requiring us to exert unnecessary energy to move ahead. Like a barnacle-encrusted ship, sometimes we need to put our calendars and our offices in dry-dock and scrape them clean.  For me, it's time and effort well spent. And it feels so good once it's done!