Strengths, and Weaknesses

I got back on my yoga mat this morning for the first time in a long, long time.   I used to have a regular practice, but my days keep getting fuller, my kids are going to bed later, and time is squeezed.

Yoga is a healing practice, and lately, without yoga, I’ve been walking around only noticing the things in my body that hurt a bit: my left knee, thanks to a torn ACL 20 years ago; one of the joints in my left foot; my right Achilles tendon that I tweaked a bit playing squash; the rotator cuff on my right shoulder that is still only back to 90% three years after an over-zealous week of vacation-tennis. As I walk down the street, I cycle through a broken record of “knee, toe, heel, shoulder….” as I notice the discomforts.

On the yoga mat, things feel a little different. I had a yoga teacher years ago, a guy named Rolf Gates, who, only joking a little bit, would demonstrate a flowing series of yoga poses and say, in his booming voice, “Now, say to yourself while doing these poses, ‘I am the most beautiful yogi in the world!’” It was silly, but it also made us all move with a little more poise, a little more grace. Being on the mat is a chance to feel more – to feel the parts that ache a bit, sure, but also to feel yourself being strong, graceful, and balanced.

It is so easy to walk around feeling only what hurts, to feel only the parts that aren’t working. We hear feedback about something we did wrong, and that becomes our whole story for a day, a week, sometimes even months or years. The perceived faults and shortcomings become everything, the throbbing knee or aching tendon that are the only things in our consciousness; while the things that went great, the thing that come easy to us, all of the areas where we shine, fade away.

Let us recognize the areas where we are still falling short, our niggling injuries that hold us back. But let us never let them eclipse all of the things that make us special, the things that are in clear view to everyone except – sometimes – us.

Posted in Courage, Effort, excellence | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

In case you didn’t get my blog today

A couple of people mentioned to me that my blog posts have started ending up in their spam filters.

Seth Godin explained better than I could what is going on here and what you can do about it (below).

I guess if this post also ends up in your own spam filter the only way for you to find out that this is happening is to talk, ceaselessly, with your friends about Seth’s blog posts (or mine), and see if you’ve missed anything.  Statistically this seems like a low-yield strategy, so I’m hoping that if posts you’re expecting from bloggers seem to disappear, you’ll know why and know what to do about it.

Between this and the fact that any thing I see online – not only on Amazon, but definitely also on Amazon – follows me virtually everywhere I go (most recently, these solar panels that I wasn’t even interested in buying), it is starting to feel like there was a “good ‘ol days” of the Internet and those are behind us.

From Seth:

This is not a promotion

The internet and big media are wrestling with chokepoints.

Cable TV companies, for example, are a natural monopoly in the home. Everyone only has one provider. If the provider has an argument with a TV network, they kick them off, the signal doesn’t get through, the viewer gets nothing.

One of the arguments behind the common sense of net neutrality is that chokepoints and tollbooths aren’t in the interest of the users.

Now, of course, online stores, if they get big enough, can act as chokepoints. And so can Google.

If you’re used to getting this blog delivered for free to your gmail account, it might be missing (I understand the irony in telling you this via a medium you no longer get). That’s because Google unilaterally misfiled my daily blog into the promotions folder they created, and I have no recourse and no way (other than this post) to explain the error to them…

(But you do: follow these instructions to get it back). Here’s a video on how to do something you never should have had to do…

And it’s not just my email that’s misfiled. I just discovered that the Acumen course I’m taking online is showing up unbidden in the same promotions folder…

Permission marketing is about delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them. It’s a disservice to reader and writer when an uninvited third party decides to change that relationship.

PS there are lots of ways to follow this blog for free. My favorite is RSS, which has no chokepoints.

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Don’t ask for career advice

Most of the time, most of the people you ask for career advice don’t know you well enough to usefully tell you what to do.

Most of the time, they will instead tell you what they did at that time and in that situation.

That’s useful to know too, but they are not you. While they will likely have more experience than you, and, possibly, more wisdom, there’s a bright line between “what have you learned?” and “what should I do?”

Ask them about what they have seen and understood. Ask them to share what the view looks like from where they sit. Ask them for perspective on what it takes to do the things you want to do.

But what you should do? That’s only up to you.

Posted in Choices | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The main course

I stopped eating meat almost four years ago, primarily for health reasons after reading The China Study, and cut out most dairy too. I do eat a bit of fish, for the vitamin B12 (and because it keeps me sane), and I still eat things that have butter in them/on them, because that makes me happy.

I’ve noticed over these past few years that, in the US at least, there are more and more veg-friendly options out there. Salad shops, soup shops, and also food from around the world that is delicious and not made with meat.

Where I still feel vegetarians are misunderstood is that, because it can be such a strange concept not to eat meat, many people assume that vegetarians go to the other extreme: that being vegetarian means that I eat side dishes all day long, food that’s more spare and has less flavor than meat-eaters would find satisfying. In fact, I have no interest in steamed broccoli with no salt or olive oil, nor do I like salads and raw, cold food much more than most people.

Great, complex, fully satisfying vegetarian main dishes are still hard to find, so when I come across them I’m quick to go back for more. The other day I had a vegan mushroom ramen from Mokbar that was every bit as ramen-y, rich, and delicious as I hoped it would be, and I was pretty amazed that they could create that much depth of flavor without any pork shoulder in the broth. That got me thinking about my top-top list of most delicious vegetarian dishes that erase any remaining longing for meaty goodness:

  • Squash rice from the Fat Hen in Johns Island, South Carolina (just had this last month for the first time. Amazing)
  • The Warm Farro & Fried Egg Salad from Red Hat Bistro in Irvington, NY (which may have disappeared from their menu, which would be a shame)
  • Tofu Bahn Mi sandwich from CoBa, on 17th St and 9th Avenue
  • Eggplant Sabich from Taim Falafel, 45 Spring Street, New York
  • Black bean burger from Smashburger (far and away the best veg hamburger I’ve ever had)
  • Lentil pie from the Tuck Shop in Chelsea Market
  • Vegetarian chili recipe from Cooks Illustrated (umami-full flavors that win over the meat-eaters)
  • Pumpkin Curry from Ariana Kebab House on 52nd Street and 9th Avenue

This list omits Indian restaurants, as I don’t have a favorite, and gets me thinking about great veg dishes at Thai restaurants.

What about you? What would you add to this list of great main course vegetarian dishes?

Posted in The China Study | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No Soup for You

I was having a light-hearted disagreement with a colleague about the loyalty card programs of the lunch places across the street from Acumen – the cards where you get 10 punches / stamps and get a free lunch. Some of them, like Chelsea Thai, allow you to combine different cards, so if you don’t always have your card with you, you can still get a stamp and combine cards. Others, like Hale & Hearty Soup, have a strict policy: no combining of cards.

The disagreement was whether there’s a meaningful difference between the two.

I discovered the intricacies of the Hale & Hearty stamp card policy a few years back when I showed up with two soup cards, one with 6 stamps and one with 4. Those two cards represented a good deal of concerted soup-eating effort on my part. Proudly, at the front of the line, I presented my two cards only to be told that the policy was “No combining cards.”

No (free) soup for me.

To be clear, I could get a free soup when I presented ONE business-card-sized piece of card stock with 10 little ink stamps on it, but not two separate cards adding up to 10.

From that moment, I stopped collecting Hale & Hearty Soup stamps.

Now, one could easily (and convincingly) argue that it’s not too much to ask that I keep track of that one card. That’s probably true. But I wonder about the culture of an organization that enforces that kind of rule, one where employees cannot make a call to say “yes” to a customer who is showing up and vouching for their own loyalty to your store.

Dov Seidman, author of How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything…in Business (and in Life), conducted a survey of 5,000 managers and executives in the US, to understand their values and behaviors. From that survey, he grouped companies into three categories:

Companies in the first group, called “blind obedience,” rely on coercion, formal authority, policing, and top-down command-and-control leadership. The second group, “informed acquiescence” organizations, have clear-cut rules and policies, well-established procedures, and performance-based rewards and punishments — the standards of high-quality 20th-century management. The third group, organizations with “self-governance,” are the most farsighted organizations, best positioned to thrive in an interdependent world. People at all levels of the company are trusted to act on their own initiative and to collaboratively innovate; a shared purpose and common values guide employee and company behavior.

I’d pretty much forgotten about my Hale & Hearty frustrations until last month when, on my way to India, I had a short, groggy layover in London’s Heathrow airport. I found my way to a Pret a Manger, my new favorite London destination, and began searching in vain, amongst the throng of coffee-starved travelers, for oatmeal (“porridge”). I waved and gesticulated a few times to the cashier, asking her where to find it, and she kept on pointing me to the same spot. Then, finally, she stepped out from behind the register, looked for herself, and realized that they were fresh out of porridge.

Immediately upon returning to the counter, she not only apologized to me, she offered me a latte on the house! Her decision was so quick and made with so little hesitation that I couldn’t help but wonder if she was bending the rules or whether, even in such a big chain the front-line employee is given the freedom to delight a customer.

It turns out that this is how Pret works, that their philosophy is all about team and front-line employees and about delighting their customers. Which would be quaint if Pret were a mom n’ pop shop, but in fact it is majority-owned by a private equity firm, it has more than 350 stores, nearly $1 billion in revenues, and it’s growing like gangbusters.

Maybe, just maybe, the follow-all-the-rules-or-you’ll-get-fired approach to management is starting to show its colors as the un-enlightened, underperforming approach it seems to be.   Because while there’s no doubt that most people would rather work somewhere where their job is to make other people happy, we’re starting to see more and more (and more) examples of how the by-the-numbers approaches are revealed for what they truly are: races to the bottom.

Posted in Generosity | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Most of your meetings will be better if you…

Have a purpose.

State a purpose.

Execute on that purpose.

 

This means you know what success looks like for you, and you actually say it out loud to the person you’re meeting with. For example:

“I want to make sure we cover these three topics.”

“I wanted to connect because I really want to understand ________ from your perspective.”

“I’m hoping that by the end of this meeting we will finalize the partnership we’ve been discussing for the past six weeks, and that your company will commit to $1M of funding towards that partnership.”

I’m surprised how rare it is to hear people actually articulate their goals for a meeting.  Especially fundraisers.  Doing so doesn’t make you pushy, it makes you clear and effective.

 

Posted in fundraising | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

15 ways you can reach me

Today a friend apologized to me for not seeing a Skype text I’d sent him last week (no problem). This got me thinking about the incoming communication tools that I have, all the ways people can reach me.

  1. Work email address (Outlook)
  2. Personal email address (Gmail)
  3. Blog email address (Gmail)
  4. Blog comments (WordPress)
  5. Spam/shopping email address (Yahoo)
  6. iPhone text
  7. WhatsApp (including a few groups)
  8. Twitter (DMs, RTs and mentions)
  9. Skype calls + texts [oh, and I’m testing Viber]
  10. Facebook (and I don’t use the messenger app)
  11. LinkedIn messages
  12. Work phone + voicemail
  13. Cellphone + voicemail
  14. Home phone + voicemail
  15. [Local cell phone while traveling abroad]

Fifteen different communications tools, and I’m not that active on any of the social media platforms. Nor does this make any reference to my going out and seeking news, updates and information (blog RSS feed, Twitter feed, Facebook feed, LinkedIn Feed, etc.).

This feels like an insane list. I guess Facebook and Google want to consolidate everything for me so I’m not jumping between platforms, but I don’t trust either enough to have that feel like a good solution.

Is this just the way it is, or am I missing something?

I’m curious: how many ways can you be reached?

(p.s. Eric Schmidt wrote a piece for Time about email, which includes the maxim “Clean out your inbox constantly.” I totally disagree. Where do we draw the line in terms of our incoming communications streams, and when are we supposed to do real thinking and work if we’re triaging 15 (20? 30?) feeds all day long?).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments