Category Archives: Reality checks

Problems With You People

This will be the last post of this annus horribilis. Beginning next week, I’ll be posting the most-read posts of this year. I’m writing this Christmas Eve, the morning after Festivus. If you’re unfamiliar with this holiday, you can read up on it here or, even better, watch the video below.

So it’s in the spirit of Festivus that I say I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it! That’s right – I’m ending the year with a little self-indulgence but I hope some of it rings true.

First, what kind of idiot conflates science with politics? I refer, of course, to those folks who deem wearing a mask or staying at home a violation of their fundamental freedoms. Here’s the problem. Your freedoms end where mine begin (and vice versa). You have no right to infect me, even unknowingly. I’ve written many times here that each of us should know our limitations, and unless you have an advanced degree in virology or epidemiology, maybe you ought to be listening to those who do when it comes to dealing with the horrible pandemic. Rather than violating temporary bans that officials place on bars, restaurants, assembly, etc., maybe you ought to look at how other countries have been dealing with the same issues and what their results have been. I think you’ll see that there are solutions that have kept the citizenry and many businesses quite safe while reducing the incidence of infection and death.

While we’re on the topic, some of you have got to quit believing everything you read on the Internet. Here is an article published in Forbes (a reputable source) that discusses how to identify a reputable source of information along with a list of sources you can check. Get your news from these places and you’ll be less likely to fall for “fake news.” More importantly, you won’t do your friends and others a disservice by spreading lies. You don’t like being lied to, do you? Neither does anyone else.

When I traveled with my eldest child in Italy many years ago, one thing she took away from our nightly dinners was that life is too short for sh$tty wine. What that really means is to treat yourself well. Don’t be so hard on yourselves. I realize that not everyone can afford everything they’d like to have but spending a bit more or fewer things or even just granting yourself an hour to do nothing. The problem I have is that as an older person now I realize I should have taken more time to smell the flowers. Maybe the pandemic has given you that insight was well since we’ve all got a bit more time without commutes, business trips, etc.

My final grievance is this: we need to be nicer. The pandemic has brought out the worst in many of us. Just be nice, as the T-shirt from one of the barbecue joints I frequent reads. Wearing your damn mask is being nice. Not wearing it is being disrespectful to the rest of us (you don’t want to kill someone’s grandma, do you?). Getting the vaccine when it’s your turn is being nice (funny how many folks who denied the virus was really a problem are rushing to the front of the line, right?). One silver lining of this hellish year has been that it demonstrates how we really are all in this life together and how many of the people we depend on might not have been on our radar before. Don’t forget that when this year and this virus are behind us. 

Happy New Year. See you in ’21!

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks

Savory Cookies

Let’s consider, this Foodie Friday, the so-called savory cookie. I don’t know about you but when I think of cookies I think about sweet or maybe even salty/sweet. Savory is not an adjective that comes to mind and yet savory cookies are, apparently, a thing.

There’s a temptation here to revert to the “is a hot dog a sandwich” question we pondered in this space not long ago. When you look at what’s in many of them – flour, sugar, butter – they read like most cookies. It’s the addition of the savory items – herbs, cheese, more salt – that transforms them. Of course, biscuits (in the Southern sense) and crackers have the same butter/sugar/flour components as well, so why are these cookies and not crackers or biscuits?

I’m not here to debate if these cookies are, well, cookies. Instead, I’d like us to think for a minute about our need to label them. Notice how when you affix a label – in this case, cookie – you also affix a stereotype (cookies are sweet!). That’s our business point today.

I’ve found that people tend to label other people. The marketing guy. The accounting gal. The reality is that placing labels on people, or stereotyping them, results from making general assumptions about an individual with little or no personal knowledge about them. I’m an older guy. What could someone my age possibly know about social media marketing or technology? Bad assumption, by the way. Phrases like “OK, Boomer” are manifestations of a stereotype. So is thinking that a woman with children is less devoted to her work and career than a single man. While some blondes may, in fact, be dumb, so are quite a few folks with dark hair.

Labeling people is counterproductive. It may cause you to make assumptions about assigning work, partnering in projects, or buying from someone. I once had a boss who gave me a raise that was lower than my older peers because “what does a kid (I was 26, my peers were in their 40s) need with that kind of money?” I was the savory cookie and he had no clue what exactly to call me so he called me a kid, a kid who obviously shouldn’t be paid like his adult peers.

I’m keeping an open mind about savory cookies. You should too, just like you should keep an open mind about the people you meet in business. Very few of us fit into stereotypical pigeonholes. I don’t. Do you?

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Filed under Consulting, food, Reality checks

Lessons From Mom And Dad

Among the myriad reasons 2020 has been an absolute horrorshow is the passing of both my mother and father. Dad left us back in July and, as my sister and I have been saying would happen for years, Mom was right behind him 90 days later.

As I’m sitting here unpacking the boxes of stuff from their apartment, a lot of thoughts are crossing my mind. I don’t know if it’s a form of therapy or just a desire to share some lessons they taught me that I know are useful to any of us in business but today is about them.

I wrote some words for each funeral. I wasn’t able to attend in person because of the pandemic. In Dad’s eulogy, I wrote that

Those three senses – the importance of family, of taking responsibility, and of being humble – were things I know he tried to convey to the three of us.

In business, I would mean a family in the broadest sense. Your business family – your coworkers, your partners, your suppliers and most of all your customers are what’s important. I did expand on the responsibility part later on:

Any time I went to Dad with a question, the answer was inevitably the same: do what you think is right. It was never “do what’s expedient” nor what’s easy. Do what you think is right based on all the information you have…When we were wrong, Dad never asked why we made a bad decision but reminded us that we’d tried our best and we’d do better next time.

I’ve been in toxic work situations where bad decisions were followed by long periods of blame-placing and recriminations. The lessons learned usually led to paralysis. If you don’t make any decisions, you can’t make any bad ones. People were more focused on finding another job than on advancing the organizational goals.

In Mom’s eulogy, I expanded a bit on that lesson:

So much of what was true about Mom was true about Dad. Certainly the importance of family and of taking responsibility. “Actions have consequences,” she would remind us, both good and bad. Consequences could be pleasurable or, as I found out often enough, not so much…At the height of the Vietnam War protests, like many my age I informed Mom I was going to skip school for Moratorium Day and go march. Skipping school pretty much for any reason was not ok and doing so to participate in a march as a newly-minted high school freshman when I should be learning where the heck my locker was was even worse. Mom’s response was pretty much “do what you think is right.” Maybe she was looking ahead a few short years when her son would be draft-eligible but I prefer to think she was telling me to use my brain, make good choices, and be prepared to live with the consequences. If I recall I was informed those consequences would not involve her posting my bail had I been arrested.

This is perhaps my pet peeve, both in and out of business. Some folks just won’t take responsibility for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault or bad luck or the weather or ANYTHING but their own doing. The pandemic, for example, wasn’t any of our doing. How we’re managing our businesses and our own health is completely our own doing.

Here’s the last lesson and it’s one my folks probably didn’t know they were conveying. My parents worked very hard their entire lives. Like many of us, they accumulated a lot of stuff. As time went on, there were fewer and fewer things as homes were sold and downsizing occurred. When they couldn’t live on their own anymore, more things were given away or sold. Finally, here at the end, my sister and I and their grandchildren received some boxes with pictures and mementos. Not much “stuff.”

I guess I’m trying to remind us that “stuff” doesn’t last. What matters are the memories in those pictures and the people who keep you and your memory alive. Try to remember that when you’re pushing yourself to make more money to buy more stuff. If there is a silver lining to the horror of this year, it just might be that we all got a little time at home to reflect on what’s important.

I’m thankful for the lessons my Mom and Dad taught me. I hope you find these few of them useful.


Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud