The Art Of Accepting How Fragile Your Life Is

The Art Of Accepting How Fragile Your Life Is

A wise gentleman once told me that anyone can look back at their time to identify moments where mere seconds and inches changed everything.  Instances where just altering time or space by just a fraction would have brought us to the brink of catastrophe. So let us start off the new year by considering the life of Tsutomu Yamaguchi. One day Yamaguchi stood on a platform awaiting a train that whisked him to business dealings in a far city.   After a pleasant Sunday with some co-workers, he strode off on a Monday morning to conduct his affairs. Approaching the building for his first appointment that morning, the structure was wracked by a great explosion collapsing the entire building.  Tsutomu Yamaguchi was just a few moments away from being inside the complex where many died.  Seconds…seconds. Even with this narrow escape, he still suffered wounds. Yamaguchi first made his way to shelter then hopped the first train back to his home town. After the rail journey and two days recuperation, Yamaguchi returned to work on Thursday. As he stood on the factory floor telling coworkers of his experience in the early part of the week, an explosive flash rocked the plant leaving scores of his coworkers seriously injured and several dozen dead.   Tsutomu Yamaguchi suffered just a few additional injuries because a hulking metal press stood between him and the source of the explosion,  Inches….inches.   Enduring two fiery events within three days is dramatic enough.  It becomes even more notable by going back to the beginning of his journey. That hot summer day when Yamaguchi stood on that platform awaiting his train…...
Steve Jobs In Not Jesus Christ, Warren Buffet Not Moses

Steve Jobs In Not Jesus Christ, Warren Buffet Not Moses

As I scan my social media feeds, it’s easy to believe that Warren Buffet parts the Red Sea on a daily basis or that Steve Jobs‘ tomb lies empty since He Has Risen!   To many, these are gods themselves. My close friend Tom is an agnostic, if not a downright atheist.  He comes at this from an informed viewpoint that humans understand just 1/1000th of the known universe and that any God we conceive is born within the limits of the human mind.   I get his take and respect his perspective. This has led to many an interesting late-night conversation between Tom and me, a self-described Smorgasboard Christian (take what you like, leave the rest).   We frequently chew over things such as the meaning of life and what the ancient thinkers were trying to tell us. “OMG, how can you believe anyone could part a thing like the Red Sea with just a wave of the hand?  It’s absurd”,  Tom would scoff.   Point taken. If one reads the Bible in its literal form, then there are many passages that strike the modern reader as just plain silly.  To wit: “But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.” (Leviticus 12:5) There you have it, giving birth to a daughter makes you unclean for 66 days. My rejoinder to Tom at these moments would often come down to, “Dude, by focusing upon the minutiae of the tale you’re missing the point of the story”.  Although, admittedly, I have...
Do you FOBO?  The Fear Of Becoming Obsolete

Do you FOBO? The Fear Of Becoming Obsolete

Consider the horse.  Until the dawn of the 20th century, a horse was one of the most valuable assets a person had.  It provided transportation and power as well as a means of exchange (in the old west, the punishment for property crime was frequently for the perp to hand over a specified number of horses to the victim). Then the world changed. Carol is a grocery clerk in her mid-50s.   It’s her encore career.  Her first vocation was 20+ years in a law firm before digital databases rendered her legal research skills obsolete.   “When my firm laid me off, I didn’t worry”, she said over coffee in the store’s café. “I mean, I knew people like me were no longer needed in law firms but thought my skills would easily transfer to any number of admin positions.” After a couple of low-paying, no benefit jobs with local nonprofits, Carol finally managed to hook on with the food chain. “The money is no better, but it’s union so the benefits help a lot”.  Yet she knows the likelihood of being replaced once more.  Self-scanners were introduced last year and everyone understands the store of the future will require far fewer employees.  “If I can hang on until 62, I’ll be alright with early Social Security.”  “If”, she quietly repeats. Her world had changed.   FOBO – Fear Of Being Obsolete.  The present-day apprehension of being left behind by the accelerating pace of technological and economic change. Multiple research sources indicate employees worry most that their skills will no longer be needed in the modern economy.   This worry extends from...
Oberlin College Ignores The First Rule Of Holes

Oberlin College Ignores The First Rule Of Holes

You’ve heard the saying: when in a hole, the first step is to stop digging. So why is Oberlin College breaking out the shovels? The Smearing In case you missed it,  a jury in Ohio hit Oberlin with a $44 million judgment* as a result of actions by the college’s administration to smear a small local bakery as racist.  In a nutshell, the facts are these: In November 2016, three black Oberlin students were suspected of stealing from Gibson’s Bakery by Allyn Gibson, who chased down the students onto college property (across the street from the bakery). The three students were arrested and later pleaded guilty to charges of attempted theft and aggravated trespassing, and each signed a statement saying the incident wasn’t based on race. However, by the day after the incident students had organized a protest in which more than 100 people demonstrated outside the bakery. The jury ultimately found that Oberlin administrators encouraged students to protest the store as well as helped organize the demonstration.  The senior administrative staff led by Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo orchestrated student fervor against Gibson’s, such as printing flyers, providing protesters space to organize and even purchasing food for the students during the turmoil. In the end, the jury held Oberlin College accountable for libel. For full coverage of this trial, go to the excellent Legal Insurrection blog, which had their staffer present for every day of the seven-week trial.  The blog did the kind of reporting national media used to do.  Cornell law professor William Jacobson and all at LI should win a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage...
Stay On Top Of These Four Trends

Stay On Top Of These Four Trends

We can say. “Our growth will be x% in 2019, but the truth is we can’t control many of the factors that dictate whether, say, revenue rises or not.  Our efforts can’t counter 2019’s economic picture nor societal trends. However, solid organizations control what they can.  One of these things is an awareness of the environment. The Federal Reserve forecasts GDP to grow by 2.5% with inflation at 2% and unemployment continuing to decline to 3.5%.  But, as baseball great Yogi Berra once quipped,  “Predictions are hard, especially about the future”. However here are four trends in America that are worth considering as we launch into the new year: Communication Channels of Choice  Consumers are increasingly disdaining live conversations in favor of services that don’t require talking, such as SMS and social media. Nearly half of Americans engage a chatbot or automated assistant at least once per week.   Our Customers Demand More Control Over Their Data  Deloittte reports that 71 percent of purchased data is inaccurate. Increasingly, consumers know when our contact with them comes from rented data, and this is an immediate turn-off.  Think twice about purchasing data sets or selling/sharing your customer’s data with others.   Personalization Continues To Make The Difference  Most Americans now prefer to buy from companies which offer personalized experiences. Personalization can take many forms, but the most popular varieties are coupons based on the customer’s locations, communications on the customer’s preferred channel, and recommendations based on past purchases or service history.   Customers Want Socially Engaged Companies   Employee volunteerism, selection of socially responsible suppliers, gifts to local nonprofits, all these are becoming standard in...
It’s The Most Wonderful Week Of The Year (for fundraising)

It’s The Most Wonderful Week Of The Year (for fundraising)

It was not the most wonderful time of the year for me. A bad break up plus a few other personal upsets left me in no mood to celebrate the holidays.   I didn’t feel like hanging out with friends and certainly had no desire to drive the 10+ hours home to family.  Christmas day spent delivering food packages to the needy helped get me thru that day, but there was still another week to endure before the promise of better times in a new year. As with many nonprofits, we were closed the week between Christmas and January 1st.    I had joined the staff three years previous as Director of Development. In that time, our annual campaign grew from $80,000 to $230,000. Despite a softening economy, this year looked to top out at $280,000.  Not bad. I waved no magic wand to achieve this growth, just put basic fundraising principles and processes into work at a sleepy mom and pop organization.   I had no training nor mentors.  Everything I knew about donor development came from a handful of books, and even this knowledge was incomplete. Work has always been a way to feel a sense of purpose when feeling less than useful.  So the morning of December 26th found me trudging to the office in search of meaning….or maybe just distraction from less than stellar personal circumstances You’re already in their heart….remind them Back then, when I didn’t know what to do, I went to the office.  Though even now, when I don’t know what to do in the office, I pick up the phone.  The act of...
How To Understand Independence Day

How To Understand Independence Day

Independence came to us via ink….in a way.   In the small city-state of Mainz,  Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press launched humanity into the modern world.     Prior to the 1500s, most of humankind lived under the thumb of the King, the Tribal Leader, the Bishop. The explosive spread of ideas and information enabled by mass production of printed material slowly undermined the majestic authority of the monarchy, the tribe, and the church.   This laid the groundwork for the rise of the nation-state as a means for organizing people. Nearly three centuries later a group of thinkers met in Philadelphia to formalize the idea that the individual is sovereign.  In the City Of Brotherly Love, these men put down on paper that at the pinnacle of society sits each of us and our personal connection to our creator. The job of the government is to protect this relationship so that we may follow our unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. [ALSO READ:  The New Diversity Of Diversity] Several centuries after that summer in Philly, the internet and all that it spawns is undermining the majestic authority of many institutions we assumed would always exist.  Consider how fast the ability for people to connect one-to-one is destabilizing institutors such as newspapers, taxis, education, even the government.   Formal national defense is less and less about protecting physical locations and more about dominating the digital space.  Gunpowder and split atoms are no longer necessary to bring about the downfall of a nation-state. Sitting at this computer right now feels a bit like living in 1500 holding a freshly printed book.  A...
We Only Get One Chance To Make A First Impression

We Only Get One Chance To Make A First Impression

We only get one chance to make a first impression. Think of the ultimate elevator pitch request: ‘Describe yourself to me in one word.’ If you’re like most people, you’ve been asked this in a job interview. It’s the bane of every college graduate: How can I boil down everything I am into a single word? Here’s the rub; we may not be able to describe ourselves in one word, but others will. The same goes for our business. [Also Read: Social Media Suicide] I spent time last week with an international branding authority, Sylvie DiGusto. According to DiGusto, studies show that first impressions are surprisingly resilient. After forming this opening impression, confirmation bias kicks in. We look for things which support our initial reactions and discount those which don’t. In her book, The Image Of Leadership, she notes this first impression forms in 7 seconds. Seven Seconds. Brain research indicates that other’s initial impression of us gets unconsciously imprinted upon their mind via a single word. This is one word becomes stuck in their heads. This word makes the sale either easier or harder. First impressions are more important than we think. And as market research tells us, a negative impression is 8x more powerful than a positive one. Thus the critical moment in any interaction with a potential client comes in the blink of an eye. You may not make the sale in those first few moments, but you can easily lose one. The good news though is that this process and our image is entirely under our control. We can make it what we want. We...
The New Diversity Of Diversity

The New Diversity Of Diversity

Research from The Economist Intelligence Unit finds that a new definition of workforce diversity is emerging. It’s no longer just about the standard metrics: race, gender, and/or sexual orientation. Driven by the entry into the workforce of Late-Millennials (defined as born 1993-2001), “diversity” is broadening to encompass life experiences, perspectives, beliefs and values. As one local businessperson told this writer, “I sense these kids don’t want to get trapped into the echo chambers in which they see us elders operate.” Echo Chambers are, by definition, a metaphor for a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system.  The business literature is strewn with stories about teams of incredibly smart people inside incredibly impenetrable echo chambers who produced incredibly disastrous decisions. [Also Read: What Kathy Griffin Can Teach Us About Diversity] These new challenges coming from Late-Millennials are impacting the employer/employee relationship. Joanna Torsone, Chief HR Officer at Pitney Bowes, says the test facing leaders is “creating an environment that lets very different people be who they truly are while maximizing their talent to support high performance.”  A recent survey by the international consulting firm Deloitte confirms this. Their research reveals 9 out of 10 millennials feel that differences of opinion allow teams to excel. Others are noting the emergence of this idea. Writing in Forbes magazine, the business economist Bill Conerly notes that a mixture of what one might call conservative and liberal perspectives provide a vital balance to a company’s intelligence. Late-Millennials are the first generation raised in a Twitter and Instagram environment where they’ve witnessed, shaming of their peers as well as watched adults have their lives and careers ruined. Today’s desire...
Doing The Minimum Wage

Doing The Minimum Wage

A man standing at the side of the road holding a cardboard sign. An altogether routine sight in Oregon. Except this one read; Labor $6.00/hr.  Well below the minimum wage. Intrigued, I pulled over to talk with the man, who appeared to be in his late 50s. His story went as thus: retired with a small pension, living modestly, receiving some government benefits. Just wants to earn enough to protect his tiny nest egg. So why not just get a regular gig at some local business? Turns out “Sam” is kinda slow moving due to various injuries and ailments over the years. Also, his literacy and numeracy skills aren’t the best. “But”, he says, “I make up for it by being dependable and thorough”. My short conversation with Sam made me think about the current discussion over the minimum wage. He could not compete in a labor market at the current Oregon rate $11.25 or even the previous $9.75 (to say nothing of the taxes that business may pay on top of that hourly wage). But $6.00/hr under the table makes him employable. The famed business expert, Peter Drucker, once said something to the effect that companies don’t have employees, they have personnel expenses. An enterprise will only expend money on people who provide a return on investment. “Good business leaders want their employees to have a decent life and want their employees to make enough money to afford to live,” noted Roy Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute. “They just don’t want to be put at a competitive disadvantage.” Does the minimum wage law push people out of...