Archive for August, 2011

08/30/2011

Successful Risk Management

One thing I really enjoyed about the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony a few weeks back was listening to the speeches of the inductees. Some guys talked about their experiences in the game, which was cool to listen to because all most people get to see are their actions on the football field. Other shared their personal stories. What made this one of the more memorial induction ceremonies was that Deion Sanders and Shannon Sharpe were being enshrined – two of the most colorful personalities to ever play football.

The common intangible behind all these Hall of Fame athletes was motivation. You can see how highly driven all these men were – the end result was a Hall of Fame type career. But often times, the source of their motivation isn’t always so evident. Still, I was looking forward to hearing both Shannon and Deion speak, since both men were blessed with the gift of gab.

Their speeches did not disappoint. What made theirs the highlight of the evening wasn’t the fact that they showed the personas football fans had come to know and love or hate. We got a chance to see the source of their motivation. Both men were driven by a desire to better take care of their families and to create a better life for themselves by rising over their socioeconomically poor yet character building rich upbringings. Hearing them speak inspired me to reflect on some of those life lessons we all know and don’t often pay enough attention too at times.

Life is always presenting us with challenges. In a culture that is so obsessed with success and its numerous trappings, what is always never shown in the media is the price of said success. Who wants to see a singer working in dingy clubs, performing in front of small half drunk audiences? Who wants to see a top point guard shooting 500 jump shots in practice? After all, we only care when they perform in sold out stadiums, sign lucrative contracts, or put on the market the next greatest life changing invention.

So how did the successful folks get that “breakthrough moment” anyways? What is the secret formula for their success?

Many will say that they had self-confidence, and were prepared to seize their opportunity whenever it appeared. The elders I talked to when I was child about being successful always preached on the importance of being prepared. The idea that was beaten into my head to be successful is to have a good plan AND to be able to be flexible when changes happen. It was frowned up in if someone was solely reliant on either a good plan or being good at making adjustments on the fly.

Being prepared allows you to know what your moment of opportunity looks like – how to see it and seize it. But as fancy as that sounds, I found out later that one of the concepts that elders seem to never fully explain properly is that of “risk management”.

In life there are good risks, bad risks and calculated ones. Good risks are bad risks are clear-cut but it’s the calculated stuff that is often the toughest to gauge. Calculated risks are tricky because their outcome turn into a good risk or a bad one. We make calculated risks all the time, not just in the world of business. Maybe you did all the planning and research for your goal and you’re about to take a chance; yet you still feel unsure about things going in your favor. So how you do handle that situation?

Many of the successful folks have taken all three types of risk, with the consequences of the good and calculated ones outweighing the bad risks. Things boil down to really knowing what your goals are and effectively managing what type of risks you are willing to take to achieve them.

08/28/2011

IT Can Never Happen To Me!?

It’s been a strange week here in the NYC area. First we had an earthquake in midweek and we are in the midst of dealing with Hurricane Irene. Having been a Category 3 hurricane, I was able to lean on my own experiences to get ready for Irene’s arrival. While the geography of both the NYC metro area and Jamaica are totally different, one could see why government officials are so concerned about the potential for flooding and overall damage to the Tri-State during and after the storm’s passage.

While both the earthquake and hurricane were clearly different types of natural events, the range of responses to both have been eerily similar. On one end, some took the overly cautious/prepared approach – especially with the hurricane – and others took the other extreme that “I’m a New Yorker I can ride this stuff out”. While there is no right or wrong way to think, I will bet for those who are without power and or water, the ones who were more prepared will fare a bit better than those who are using their “toughness to ride it out”.

The craziest part of the watching the storm coverage for me was seeing the instances of two people kayaking off a NYC beach and needed rescue. When I saw that story all I could do initially was to shake my head. But the more that story stayed with me, the phrase “it can never happen to me” came to mind as a fitting summary.

Why were they out there in the first place? Maybe they felt like the opportunity was to too great to pass up – to say you kayaked out in hurricane level surfed and survived. Maybe they had done it before and felt like nothing would happen to them. Maybe they were just morons who didn’t think things through.

Ultimately it sounds like they were having a bad case of the “it could never happen to me” syndrome.

Ever had that one friend who you KNOW is a cheater, and has gotten caught in the past, yet still cheats anyways? How about that cousin who ALWAYS had to have family bail him out of a tight spot and yet they keep making the same mistake constantly? What about that coworker who continues to tell you about those get rich quick schemes that NEVER work but is always trying to pull you into one? How about the talented little kid who never chases his dreams because the people who are closest to him keeping telling him that he will never make it?

Why are they always stuck on doing the same thing over and over again? Will they ever learn? Are they planning to fail or failing to plan? No, they’re living on the belief that “it will never happen to them”.

What happens is that there are folks who will live by the “seat of their pants”. They will always be the architects of “adjusting on the fly”. Ever had that one friend who always has stories to tell of places her traveled to and stuff he did? How about that cousin who has made a career of doing every part-time job in the book? While some have chosen this lifestyle because that’s how best they feel they are productive, there are some how get trapped into this way of life and never see the value of a plan and following through on it.

One the other hand there are those who making plans is where they are most comfortable. They will have elaborate ideas, craft the plans to match, yet execute them terribly. Some get stuck in the thought that the plan is the only way to go, and it must be followed to the letter. They don’t often see that the plan is a guide and sometimes a bad plan is a bad plan. Adjustments need to be made and they may never be willing to step outside their comfort zone and learn to think on the fly.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not bashing either ways of doing things. It’s just that life always has a way of reminding us that we have more of the power to choose our own outcomes than we may realize. We can choose to have a good plan or always be the one to “live life on the fly”. We can choose to be one who thinks the grass is always greener with a new partner on the side, or that it’s better to talk to the one I’m with to see if I can get what I want in that relationship. Being more active in our choices means that more positive things can happen to someone, and some negative things can be avoided.

Whatever we decide, choosing not to see the consequences of our actions in a blind belief that “it will never happen to me” is not a choice anyone can afford to make.

08/25/2011

Discretion is always “Like” and “+1 Worthy”

Eric P asks: “Weh mek some people love gwaan like fool fi mek di whole world see dem? Dem nuh undastand dat ah nuh everyting good fi eat good fi talk?”

For some, it’s important to appear being about something than doing something meaningful.

Boy, I just love the timeless nature of proverbs in Jamaican culture. Before you roll your eyes at myoverindulgence in using proverbs to talk about stuff, just remember sometimes nothing better sums up a life situation than a proverb – no matter the culture.

 Working with teens as I do in my current 9-5 life has me listening to them talking about Facebook and other SNS (social networking sites) at some point during the day. While teens usually have interesting stories such as why a boy shouldn’t follow a girl that’s not his girlfriend to a nail salon – they’re supposed, being teens – it’s the crazy stories adults have that always leaves me SMH (shaking my head) a bunch.

 Now, don’t get me wrong – I like Facebook and have a healthy respect for the power of social media – see how Betty White got a chance to host Saturday Night Live based on a Facebook page campaign. But some things should not be posted on online – period.

Ever have that friend who posted pics from their bedroom? How about the cousin who likes to upload every type of embarrassing pictures and videos for all to see? What about the trend now that commercial sex workers are seeking clients using social media?

  Here are two of my fav SNS stories. I had a friend who as a FB junkie at one point. She had about 600 friends (she knew nearly all 600) and got completely wrapped up in what other people are doing. You should have seen her go through some hills and valleys, describing all the drama in other people’s lives. It got to a point though where she was so distracted by FB that she had to take a year off from it. How about the time another friend got into an argument with his girlfriend over a former high school classmate (that he hadn’t seen since 10 years and now lives in another country) who decided to confess her high school crush by posting it on FB wall? Talk about angst!

 I swear there needs to be an etiquette class on using social media. While there are websites that cover this (http://www.techipedia.com/2008/social-media-etiquette-handbook/), I guess something has to be done to address the perception that there is some need for etiquette to using social media. It’s a matter of taste really and playing into the ideas of instant gratification and need to be connected that dominates our society today. People often forget to that while their SNS profiles are their own, there are other people who look at them that people don’t necessarily want them to see what’s going on in their lives.

 Lacking discretion with SNS usage can have far-reaching consequences that can hit home in real life. One cautionary issue is the prevalence of cyber bullying via social media. It has gotten to the point where if you check the news often enough you will start to see people trying to raise awareness. While young people seem to be more impacted based on the literature at the moment, there are probably some adults who face cyber bullying as well. The location aspect of social media is also a new type of concern. Since a larger number of people are accessing SNS through mobile devices, people’s actual location are showing up in their status alerts. This can be troublesome if you have someone who is trying to find you that you want nothing to do with. Can you imagine if you have that partner who likes to follow your every move and they flip out when they see “Bob has checked into Larry’s Gentleman’s Club” via FB – especially if it’s got NOTHING to do what the Club has to offer?

 Using SNS has great benefits and in some sense, morphed into another way to “keep up with the Joneses”. But before putting out your next tweet, positing your next photo album, or sharing a random thought on someone else’s wall – ask yourself: “is this really what I want to put out there?” Because whether you remove it later or not, once it’s posted it can never be taken back.

08/15/2011

The Art of Minding One’s Business

 

“Cockroach nuh business inna fowl fight”

Every time I see this proverb I burst out laughing for two reasons. Firstly, the phrase itself is funny as hell when said by someone who is really in a storytelling mood, but more importantly the meaning lines up in its crosshairs those know-it-alls who love to be in everyone’s business.

Minding one’s own business is really a lost art. It is simply more than just saying out of harm’s way – it is about sizing up a situation and acting accordingly. The most infamous people who like to butt in are mother-in-laws, particularly those on the side of the groom. It’s been long documented the history of mother-in-laws clashing with wives on how to run their own household. While some are well intentioned, others are just plain nasty at times.

Any of our favorite know-it-alls have different reasons for being so good at what they do best. Maybe they are seeing something in the other person that you are not and are hell bent on getting you to see the “light”. Maybe they are just miserable and want to share that. One can argue that it usually has something to do with the perceived supplanting of the mother-in-law by the wife as the primary female source of advice in significant matters in the groom’s life. It’s not always limited to the groom though, as there are some mother-in-laws in the wife’s ear that are just as obnoxious.

I think it’s safe to say that keeping the in-laws (or partner’s family) in check is a key portion of making sure things at home run smoothly. I can recall being in a relationship where young lady and her mom were extremely close. I knew that our some parts of our relationship were a topic of conversation, and I took the time out to do two things to make sure mom wasn’t an issue. I talked to her about being mindful of what gets said to mom; then I got to know her mom and was cool with her. Fortunately, she respected where I came from enough to Prophylaxis can be a powerful tool indeed.

Another popular form of know-it-alls is parents – especially the ones who are always in their children’s lives, doing everything for them or having every suggestion for every situation. Part of life is making mistakes and figuring things out, after all. Sometimes butting in does more harm than good. Still, I cannot completely bash minding one’s business, as there are times when our favorite know-it-alls have been helpful based on their butting in.

Ultimately, the real key here is people management which is the essential skill that is getting eroded. The truth is one can only manage their own issues as everyone has more than enough on their own plate to be worrying about. Minding one’s business is knowing when to step in an speak up, and when to back off and stay away.

08/13/2011

Time To Make A Change

Dr. L asks:  “Bwoy! Mi Caan tell yuh how much lazy jackass mi see pon dem train wid beggin’ cup? Weh mek dem nuh go look wuk fi live likkle life?” 

Because no matter the weather, any jackass will gallop after the right smelling corn.

It goes without saying how difficult these times are economically. There are many folk out there who are at jobs where clearly they are causing burnout and unhappiness. People here in the US are inundated with bills, economic plans, unemployment benefits and rising debt. So it makes the case that you will find more people who are stuck in those “get me over for right now jobs” because they know how difficult is it in order to get to what they want.

Here’s the ugly truth: it’s always difficult to make a career change, even when that change has to be a necessary one.

We all know how bad the economy is here in the US, and it’s not great globally either. But what if making a career change has almost nothing to do with the economy? In a good economy, it’s harder to get into the field that you want because if it’s a well-paying job others want in. If one is making a career change in a poor economy, the challenge is that employers have more leverage due to both salaries and number of applicants. Now the economy might play into supplementary things like loans, but really – that’s about it.

So, if the economy isn’t the issue, then what keeps people in those “right now” jobs? Well, we all are creatures of habit. We may get caught up in the same routine and just find it easier to deal with the “same evil” that we know quite well at the current job. Some of us have gotten so good at that we know the system inside out and even if the job doesn’t pay well, you just use the loopholes to protest the salary. We all know the good ones – using the company phone to make personal calls, taking an extended lunch, leaving early, and pilfering stationery. The price we pay is that we sometimes become the things we didn’t want to be, all in the name of playing it safe.

We all cannot be lawyers, doctors, models and rock stars. If we were, who would fly our planes, make the food when we go out to eat, remove our garbage, watch our kids or massage our aching feet? Not every job is glamorous, but every job can lead to the slice of the dream for the one who is willing to use it properly.

It is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel in these times; especially when one has bills to pay, kids to take care of, and other responsibilities. But if one doesn’t make the time to get on track, how effective will they really be in fulfilling those roles financially? Stretching a dollar to make ends meet is important, but the last time I checked, you cannot use $100 to buy a $1 million home.

Unfortunately, it boils down to fear for many folk when it’s time to make a change. Even when people have a well laid out plan on how to get closer to where they want to be, there are still jitters. What if this part falls through? Will I have enough income coming in during the lean times? What if put in all this savings and it blows up in my face? Just like anything else in life, it is about planning, making adjustments and falling through. If you are holding your own with your current responsibilities, it means you can make the change successfully too.

There are times we just need the right push to get us started. It could be anything, from words of wisdom, the boss flipping out unnecessarily and it irked your last nerve or the smile from your children. A big part of making the right change is making sure you have support in your corner to help you ride both the high waves and low troughs.

As Deion Sanders said in his 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech: “if your dream is not bigger than you, then something is wrong with your dream”.

08/11/2011

Home Is Where….

“Can you really go back home again?” is one of the most common phrases people have asked about from as far as I can remember. This is something I think about a fair deal from time to time, especially when it is triggered by the following conversation” “ah when last yuh go back ah yard (Jamaica)?”

Being able to return to one’s roots is something that is never really far from anyone who was migrated on any level. It is always the matter of weighing scales to see why one left and what one can go back home to that makes such a choice so tricky indeed. Now, many people leave their “homes” for different reasons, and for that matter, have different “homes”. Persecution, seeking opportunity, needing a change of scenery are often the most common reasons. There are those small few who’ve burnt bridges and threw “The Deuces” up and have NO intention of returning home. But, for the majority of people, being able to return home is always at the back of their minds.

The big thing that we often forget is home is not the same once you’ve left – ever. Whether positive or negative, there is always a sense of nostalgia created by that place we call home that drives us. Some people want to return to vanquish demons, be hailed as a success, or others just miss the comforts that home provides. Some just want to go back and bulldoze the place. The common theme is to be able to go back on one’s own terms and to be in charge of the “home coming.”

One situation that highlights the difficulties of “being able to go back home again” is the experience transplants have when they either return to visit or move back to live. The trouble there is that people can tell that you haven’t “been here” for a while. It doesn’t help that transplants are seen for the “money” that they have by some locals and are at minimum harassed, killed at the extreme. There are a fair number of folk who want to return to their homeland but just don’t feel the aggravation is worth the effort. Not every transplant wants to physically return – some want to lend economic support but have too many concerns about how well their capital will be properly utilized. As a result, they may choose to invest where they are because they have more direct control of their investments.

There is nothing wrong with yearning for home, whatever it may mean for a person. But if you cannot really go home again, it may be best to just making a new home instead.

08/09/2011

Dating Grown Children

That comment in the “Access and Opulence” entry really got me thinking some more after posting that entry. As difficult as it may be to figure out what wants, needs, and “what we think we want” are, it’s clear to see how not addressing the reasons behind our perceptions can play into our relationships in their many different intimate forms.

Everyone has a child inside them. I am always amazed at both the can do attitude of children and young people alike. They can move mountains more readily than adults do because they can tap back into that “it”. As adults we see dangers, consequences, rules and mores when assessing a situation. In the defense of adulthood, there are times when such foresight based on experiences can be necessary. Still, seeing all those things may make us not as willing to do what needs to be done in order to bring us closer where we need to be.

For example, if two people who are in a relationship who don’t communicate very well, things can easily go sour. Let’s say that one person is the dreamer – the child who thinks big things and usually gets things done by pushing and powering through an experience. The other is the thinker – the one who moves cautiously and likes to know what they are getting into before taking the plunge. Both have their merits, but if both don’t express their perspectives clearly and respect where the other is coming from, then how likely is this relationship going to succeed?

Say our dreamer and thinker want to take a vacation together. The dreamer picks an exotic location with plush amenities and an action packed stay. The thinker asks: “how are we paying for all that? Don’t you think that it’s too much stuff to try to fit into such a limited vacation time?” The dreamer might be mad because the thinker is ruining the dream, after all such details can be figured out later. Conversely, the thinker presents a thought out, very detailed plan. The dreamer asks “when do you plan to get all this prep done? Why does the vacation feel routine and well-organized – isn’t a vacation to be fun and relaxing?” So the thinker might be mad because the dreamer is dismissing the idea of getting the most out of the vacation by planning ahead and getting all the important details settled immediately.

So which approach is more important? The answer is neither and both at the same time. No one take is better than the together, but a consensus from both will assuredly lead to a grand time on vacation. Here’s the trouble though, it’s just as hard to love as it is to share and come to a consensus. If both sides dig in, there is likely to be a crappy vacation at best and no vacation at worst.

Ever seen how kids come to a consensus? It’s usually trying a bunch of things until something works to solve the problem. Also, kids will put their feelings out there explicitly as a part of the “figuring this out”, but once the solution is found, all feelings are forgiven. Surely as us adults we don’t have to go through all those machinations, right? “I just say my piece and they just got to deal with it” is an approach both the thinker and the dreamer may take while they dig into their positions and debate how the vacation should be sorted out – if it even happens.

To me, the best part of being an adult is to be able to pull on the youthful exuberance at times. What has happened for some is that they still are stuck in the “I want it now and only my way” views as a child – which can make them very selfish and demanding, pushing others to the breaking point. Dating grown children is always hard as no one wants to spend a relationship babysitting or merely catering to a partner’s every whim completely.

08/03/2011

Managing The Past

“Living in the past never presents a prosperous future. “