A Personal Awareness

Back in November, 2019, which seems like years ago now, I had the honor of meeting Shola Richards at the Florida Public Library Director’s meeting in Tallahassee.  I was deeply impressed by his energy and enthusiasm for improving our work spaces and our lives.  He was funny and deeply moving at the same time. We are having him come virtually to Palm Beach in the summer to work with my library staff.  

It turns out that Shola and I have a lot of things in common.  We are both happily married to awesome women who are also our best friends.  We are both fathers, Shola to two daughters and my one daughter, all around the same age.  We are both at first reluctant, and but now enthusiastic, dog owners.  We both live in beautiful parts of the country.  We are both passionate trainers who want to change people’s lives.  Although I will admit he is much more handsome than me!   However a couple weeks ago Shola shared in his weekly email message one profound way that our lives are different.  It is something that I take for granted every day.  For him, it could be a matter of life and death. 

The title of his message was Why I’ll Never Walk Alone.

Twice a day, I walk my dog Ace around my neighborhood with one, or both, of my girls. I know that doesn’t seem noteworthy, but here’s something that I must admit:

I would be scared to death to take these walks without my girls and my dog. In fact, in the four years living in my house, I have never taken a walk around my neighborhood alone (and probably never will). …

When I’m walking down the street holding my young daughter’s hand and walking my sweet fluffy dog, I’m just a loving dad and pet owner taking a break from the joylessness of crisis homeschooling.

But without them by my side, almost instantly, I morph into a threat in the eyes of some white folks. Instead of being a loving dad to two little girls, unfortunately, all that some people can see is a 6’2” athletically-built black man in a cloth mask who is walking around in a place where he doesn’t belong (even though, I’m still the same guy who just wants to take a walk through his neighborhood). Its equal parts exhausting and depressing to feel like I can’t walk around outside alone, for fear of possibly being targeted.

Reading his post had a deep impact on me.  Every day I step out my front door to walk to the mailbox, or roller blade around the block, or walk my dog without a hint of concern.  All my life I have felt comfortable walking through city streets without fear of being profiled.  I take for granted how the color of my skin gives me freedoms that others do not have.   

At the library we have a mission to connect communities, inspire thought and enrich lives.  Racism and violence are in direct opposition to it.   It is impossible to connect communities when racism and violence create barriers to trust.   It is impossible to inspire thought when racism and violence shut down understanding.   It is impossible to enrich lives when racism and violence favor some groups of people above others.  

Shola’s description of what he feels is necessary to do to stay safe on a simple walk through a peaceful community is heartbreaking.  Let us all commit to building a world where everyone feels safe walking the streets of their neighborhood and where the color of our skin does not keep us from stepping out our front door alone.  

As human beings we owe this to each other.

To learn more about Shola and his work, please visit his web site for more information and videos of him in action.

The Productivityist Podcast

I recently came across an engaging podcast from a company called the Productivityist.  According to their web site, they are:

“A company built with the quest to help people stop “doing” productive and start “being” productive through developing practical and tactical approaches to their work and lives.”

productivityistThe host is Mike Vardy, the President of the company.  So, what exactly is a productivityist?  Mike offers us this description:

“A productivityist is a productivity enthusiast. They are someone who studies productivity, be it the tools or habits. They dive deeper into the realm than most people. Just like a comedian looks at the world differently, so does the productivityist. Productivityists, like other enthusiasts, like to go further in their craft and push boundaries. They like to explore new processes, new ideas, new ways to get things done.”

The podcast is worth a listen and it can be found on the Productivityist web site or through the Apple Podcast app.  In future blog posts, I’ll explore the thoughts and ideas of some of the podcast’s unique guests.

 

The Weekly Review – A Time for Perspective

person holding turned on laptop

Weekly Review

For most people the world of work is fast paced.  Between meetings, deadlines, email, interruptions and more meetings, it seems like everything and everyone is vying for our attention.  It is like a roller coaster that never stops – leaving its riders dizzy and sick to their stomachs.  Thankfully, there is an antidote to this fast pace; one that is within anybody’s grasp.  It is called the Weekly Review.

In GTD, the Weekly Review a fundamental practice.  It is dedicated time to gain perspective.  In order for a knowledge worker to take advantage of the review, they must shut out the world for a few hours.  For many of us, this may seem like a tall order.  However, there are natural ebbs and flows to the week.  Typically, Friday afternoon is when most workplaces slow down and presents an opportunity to claim quiet time.

If you don’t think the Weekly Review is important, here is what David Allen himself says about the practice:  “Honestly, this is what I do to keep myself sane and in control. … It is the one factor upon which your success with Mind Like Water technology hinges.”

For the complete steps to the Weekly Review simply download this handy guide.

 

Everyone is Above Average

Quick question: on a scale of one (low) to five (high) how would you rank your own driving ability relative to the other drivers in your area?  If you are like most people, you probably rank yourself as a very good driver, definitely better than most people on the road.  When scientists researched this question, one study found that 74% of all drivers thought they were above average.  One possible reason for this statistically impossible result is the Illusory Superiority fallacy, also known as the Lake Wobegon Effect.

lakewobegondaysIllusory Superiority is a cognitive bias whereby individuals overestimate their own qualities and abilities relative to others.  It is sometimes called the Lake Wobegon Effect after Garrison Keller’s fictional home town in Minnesota where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”  The trap with this fallacy is that it prevents people from seriously examining their own skills and thus overlooking opportunities for growth. From a personal development standpoint, the Illusory Superiority fallacy can be a barrier to self-improvement on many fronts.

Avoiding this fallacy is tricky, but not impossible.  One path forward is to find measurable benchmarks that personal performance can be judged against, such as national or local averages.  Another approach is to seek non-bias feedback from peers, for example in the form of a 360 review.  Either way, developing a critical eye regarding your own performance opens up avenues for personal improvement that may not have been recognized before.

Now excuse me while I listen to old episodes of A Prairie Home Companion

The Undoing Project

undoing-projectHave you ever wondered how you make a decision?  Most people believe that in any given situation they make rational, common sense choices that will maximize their success and happiness.  In truth, our minds work in mysterious ways that often lead people to make decisions that run counter to their best interests.  The major work on this subject was done in the 70’s and 80’s by a pair of Israeli researchers who revolutionized the field.  Their names were Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

In his latest book, Micheal Lewis, author of The Blind Side and The Big Short, looks at the fascinating life and work of these two researchers in his new book, The Undoing Project.  It provides a fun introduction to some of Kahneman and Tversky’s greatest discoveries, including anchoring, base rate fallacy, framing, and prospect theory.  The book is an enjoyable character study of the unique partnership between these two researchers whose work has impacted fields far from academia, including medicine and sports.

After reading the book, you may become skeptical about the quality of your decisions, but at the same time you will learn ways to double check your thought process so that you can make a better decisions.

What’s your standard for email?

I recently came across a short article on the Getting Things Done web site in which David Allen discusses why it is easier to maintain an empty inbox than a full one.  Below is the opening of the article:

davidallen“I assert that it’s actually less effort to maintain your email inbox at zero than to maintain it at 300 or 3,000. Will it take effort? Of course. But there is gold to be mined there with a trusted practice that will have ripple effects across your workflow and motivation.

“At a certain point, you will clean up your email. For some people twenty is too many. And for some, it’s five thousand. Different standards for ‘stuff.’

“These standards are very powerful unconscious drivers of your behavior and permitted experience. You may consciously think you’d like to keep a neater house, or process your email more regularly, but if you don’t change the set point of the real standards you have about the amount of out-of-control-ness you actually will tolerate, they will slide back in spite of your best intentions. Pit your willpower against your unconscious cruise controls, and guess where I’ll place my bets.”

Read the rest of the short article at GettingThingsDone.com.

Explore Mind Mapping

mindmap.jpgFor most people, the default way to take notes and plan events is very linear.  On a clean page in the top left corner they start to write things down in sentences one line after the other.  The drawback to this linear approach is that it is challenging to connect thoughts and ideas quickly, especially when they are separated on the page.  A great alternative approach for note taking and planning is a mind map.

Mind maps, popularized by author Tony Buzan, are a way to represent information in a visual format that is quick to make and easy to absorb.  As described on the site iMindmap.com: “A Mind Map is a visual thinking tool that can be applied to all cognitive functions, especially memory, learning, creativity and analysis.”  Not only is a mind map a great alternative to regular note taking, it is also a strong collaborative tool as multiple people can work on a mind map at the same time.  A large poster size paper and a bunch of markers allow a team to brainstorm very quickly and creatively.  In the July 2016 article of Toastmaster magazine, Tony Buzan said the following about Mind Maps, “It’s like a gymnasium for your mind and gives you a multiple-level workout.  I use it when I’m planing my day, giving a speech or writing a book.”

Explore the steps to create colorful mind maps at iMindmap.com.  If you want to keep it simple, mind maps can be quickly made in black and white.  Other mind mapping tools can be found on Lifehacker.