Selling your days to the highest bidder

celebrity auction


When I can’t lead myself, I seek support.

From leaders, like a boss, a captain, or a mentor in my field. Or I seek support from others, like a partner, or family member. Or it can be the simple support  of a schedule, in a job, or the regiment of the military. Maybe it’s the organization in a sports team, or even a political group.

Whichever it is, the support is necessary, even critical.

These supports help us set goals and the procedure to get to them. But choosing the purpose of those goals is up to me. Why are those goals important to me? Which organization will I choose? Should I work for company A or B? Should I be a creator or an administrator?

And so one of the great struggles of the human continues:

Choose what you want as an individual, while wanting to be an accepted member of the group.

In this delicate balance, we choose the place to spend our life..to sell our life. Each day of work is a day of my life I have sold to the highest bidder. Not just for money, of course, but the place where I will get the greatest reward: The reward of knowing what I’m doing is producing something important.

Knowing your importance is critical, because anything else we have in life is only a substitute we may use to get through the days of our lives, but not the reason for living.

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The most effective muscle building exercise for the arm

cartman-beefcake

The biceps curl is overdone and over-hyped. I do them, as part of a total body workout, but there’s a more effective arm-buster.

Now, I don’t support hitting arms before you’ve done the Exercise Triumvirate: Lunges, Squats, and Deadlifts (LSD). It’s great to see more and more people joining the Triumvirate as we get smarter about what exercises work for total fitness, and which don’t.

But, as for getting gorilla arms, the best exercise is the triceps extension, seated or lying down.

Why? Because the triceps are the biggest muscle group in the arm, they take up the most space. So if you do some high weight sets mixed with low weight sets, after a few weeks, you are sure to look like you can lead all the women folk to safety.

As for developing the mind of a leader… that is a different regiment altogether.

Why didn’t they move to help her?

groupthink

There was coughing in the quiet of the library. I continued typing away at my laptop. After a few moments, I came out of my focus and noticed an old woman sputtering, trying to catch her breath. She was seated at a computer, and she continued her string of coughs and I started wondering how long she’d been at it. Was she choking?

I got up from my chair and made a move towards her, as did a woman who sat near me and another man who sat closer to the choking woman. We hesitated a couple of long seconds, not touching her, and luckily she regained her breath. She shook her head and muttered, “down the wrong pipe..” She coughed again and patted her chest. “I’m sorry.”

No one said anything. In silence, I retook my seat as did the other two who had stood up. I looked around. There were maybe ten others in the room who had watched the woman choking. They hadn’t moved.

I think one of our greatest qualities is we follow obediently. We fall in line and work together, without arguing over pride or ego…too much. We don’t all try to give orders. This allows us to get stuff done, as a team, as a nation, as a human society.

On the flip side, we wait on others. We wait on someone else to take the lead sometimes. We wait for someone else to do what we know is right, instead of doing it ourselves.

And this makes our tendency to follow also one of our greatest weaknesses.

You are the leader you’ve been looking for

Leaders don’t check their culture for approval. They have the awareness of what’s going on to determine the right direction and start a movement towards it. It’s lonely, but it begins with a trust in human nature. Not the group’s nature, but individual nature…your nature. The group will not like your idea to change, unless it’s a slamdunk positive gain for them. Otherwise, they may think you’re going in the wrong direction. Or, more likely, they’re afraid of the change or pessimistic that things will improve.

Leadership begin with self-awareness. It begins with having the courage of your convictions. But it is more than pointing out all the wrong things. Or blaming one group over another group. The leader needs to extend his courage to the group. We must have the courage to trust people. To trust their potential, to empower people to do the right thing.

This courage is particularly important today, when people see two political parties and no real difference. And yet we are scared to vote for anyone else, because we don’t have the courage in our fellow citizens that they will do the right thing. And so we continue to vote based on who is more likely to win, and not who is more likely to do the right thing once in office.

And so nothing changes.

“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” -Ralph Nader

I agree with Ralph.

So be a leader.

Start a conversation about where you think things are headed and where you think the right direction lies. Listen, don’t lecture. Exchange ideas. If we don’t, then money will determine who wins elections, just as we feared.

And it will be our fault that it continues.

Your workplace is life. Life is your workplace.

As I’m currently transitioning to new clients in my career, I’ve been thinking about what makes a healthy workplace and my past experiences with companies and teams. Coincidentally, I was watching an episode of The Office and the executive manager decided to resolve a power struggle between two employees who wanted to be manager by saying, “I’m sure you two can sort this out among yourselves.” and left them to resolve the issue. It reminded me of how the department I worked at previously was being run and how we need a social structure to excel.

Where I worked, every so often, the manager would get a visit from one of the team members, complaining to her about what another team member was doing. She would listen, and then do nothing. There was no discussion. As a consequence, there was little talking on the team, socially, or in terms of hashing out problems. People felt the need to go to her and didn’t feel comfortable enough with their team mates to express themselves.

A vacuum of leadership

I remember when I started there, I was not welcomed by the manager. I did my consulting projects with minimal training on their work process. There were no team building exercises or outings. There was no feeling of community.

The team completed their work, but is that enough?

Stuff got done, but with the minimum of service and occasional added cost to the company. And it was done in a sterile space. It’s clear that this is because there was no communication. This hurts performance in terms of the company’s interests, but my point here is the impact on the people, which is the most important asset of the company anyway.

It’s sad when we spend most of our lives at work, more than 8 hours a day, day after day, and we often don’t connect with our co-workers. Maybe because the workplace is too rigid, but it could be because there is no framework of managing the people.

We need a social structure with a leader

Alain de Botton has observed this as well. He tells us that the same guidance in religious communities is necessary in the secular population. People need a social structure with a leader, a place to connect and share. The congregation should extend beyond church walls to many places, most of which being the workplace.

So as I review my past and future work experience, I ask, if our workplace is not a congregation of friends who can synergize for the company and socialize for our own quality of life, then it might be time to reconsider where we want to spend the rest of our lives.

The perfect backyard and the perfect person.

I was out walking with Jesse the other day. The sun was setting and the western skies were aglow with shimmering orange and yellow and red. We passed a home with a back yard that was carefully landscaped with evergreen trees. They were clustered within neat rings of stone. A decorative stone bench sat at either end of the yard. There was small, neatly trimmed shrubbery flanking the area.

“That yard looks like a park,” I said.

I thought about the care of the owners to ensure that the branches were trimmed. The stones and benches clear of weeds. The grass surrounding them cut. I said, “I wonder what the yard is going to look like in a hundred years. Will the yard even be there? Will it be destroyed? Will the family have moved on, and will there be another family owning the place?”

The transience of life

I think about how much the yard was appreciated. I think of our constant struggle to keep order. Maintaining our hygiene, cleaning ourselves, walking about, working, exercising, cleaning again. Picking out the soap and shampoo that we like, maybe it’s the cheapest, or the one that has best scent, or the one used in all the salons, or the one that’s not tested on animals.

Finding the restaurant with the tastiest dishes, the ones we must have, and we’ll pay for it, because nothing else is good enough. Maybe getting fast food, because we just want to eat something, anything. Or going to places that get their ingredients locally. Or having a garden, or not eating animals because we do care, we care a lot about our actions…

Does it matter?

Eating, brushing our teeth, eating again, brushing again, stopping the rot, keeping the bacteria at bay. Our diligence! Cutting the grass, cursing the rain, cutting the grass again, trimming bushes.

Again and again and again.

Going shopping to replace worn clothes, or just because it feels good. Trying to make more money, searching for that job that will make us comfortable, that income that’s just out of our reach, if only we could get to it.

Until we don’t do it anymore

Until one day, we stand at the gates to be judged. The gates of truth. Our conscience. And we ask ourselves if we spent our time wisely. Did we make an effort to do the right thing, or did we follow the crowd? Did we work too much, too little? Did we care about our contribution, about the consequences of our actions? Did we care about people, about the future, or did we throw up our hands in helplessness? Did we worry too much, or did we enjoy our life?

I looked at the yard and thought all this, because this is what I do. I thought about the big clock. Tick-tock. And then I stopped thinking of that. And I started appreciating everything a little bit more.

The perfect backyard and the perfect person? Neither is possible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try for them.

TED Talk Tuesday – Derek Sivers shows us how to start a movement



It’s hard being the first to step out of the group:

“Let’s declare our independence from the king.”
“Let’s free the slaves.”
“Let’s not eat animals.”
“I’m going to spin on my head while you scratch that record”

Sivers shows us that the importance of the leader is significant, but the first people who listen to him and do something are the key to driving a movement.

“If you really care about starting a movement, have the courage to follow and show others how to follow. And when you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first one to stand up and join in.”

We are social animals, but thankfully, our need to achieve and follow our individual desires drags us forward to a better future, kicking and screaming…or in this case, dancing.