Blind Ambition

Accountability Contribution Resilience

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JohnPainting

Key Point: You can be blind and paint in vivid colors. I simply love John Bramblitt‘s paintings. This Texan artist captures color, shapes, light, texture and meaning like it comes from his soul. And I believe it actually does. According to a recent blog in mymodernmet.com, by the time Bramblitt was 30, seizures had rendered him completely blind, sending him into what he calls “the deepest, darkest hole” of depression. “All of the hopes and dreams that I had for my life; all of the plans for what I would do after I graduated school were gone. I was not only depressed, but in mourning. The life that I had, along with the future that I was planning, was dead and gone,” he says. “I felt like I had no potential; that basically I was a zero.”

For more than a decade now, the inspirational artist has received several honors and been the subject of much media attention for his gorgeous paintings created in spite of his so-called handicap. “In a way, I am glad that I became blind,” Bramblitt says. “This makes more sense when you stop thinking about adversity as an obstacle, and start viewing it as an experience—something that you can learn from and grow from.”

Recoding artists Pitbull and Ne-Yo have a song out called “Time of Our Lives,” and while I’m not sure I agree completely with all their recommended courses of action, as they pound out their lyrics, I love their third verse: 

[Verse 3 – Pitbull:]

This for anybody going through tough times

Believe me, been there, done that

But everyday above ground is a great day, remember.

And I’m reading Peter Bregman‘s Four Seconds. Bregman suggests we numerically code problems by severity, (for example, life threatened by war is a 10, a life threatening disease a 9)… You get he drift by the time we get to our “BIG” problems; they’re in a little more perspective.

This blog is dedicated to all the people I love and know and my readers who may feel tapped out, wrung out, in “Holland” way too long (see my previous blog), and just feeling s#!tty; no matter the reason. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Be inspired by Bramblitt… We can get out of deep depression and when we view our obstacles as an “experience,” we reframe where we are it. WE ARE NOT in competition to what we read on Facebook or see on Instagram. Those are snapshots in time, NOT representative of a whole life. Our living is exclusively ours and not for the judgment of our parents or friends. If we follow the Character Triangle; do it now, be kind, and give more… How can we really be “wrong” or “unsuccessful?”
  1. Just friggin’ PAINT! Remember what the great poet Pitbull says, “everybody above ground is a great day… Remember.”

Color blind in The Triangle, 

Lorne  

P.S. Please check out Jeff Hanson, an 18-year-old prolific Canadian painter who is also blind. It’s a WOW!

One Millennial View: Guys like Bramblitt truly do help you put things in perspective. An old college friend recently took a trip to Africa. When her family’s first of four connecting flights was delayed (with only a short layover between all of them), I got a text saying, “Well, we can’t go to Africa anymore.” Uh, what? That’s it? Because of an hour delay at the start of her journey, she was convinced the whole two-week dream vacation to Kenya would be scrapped? I remember that attitude making me sad and frustrated. Of COURSE the whole trip wouldn’t be cancelled, there would just be a few inconvenient, unexpected variables (an overnight layover in Houston, to be specific). I’m fortunate enough to have a pretty optimistic point of view with just about everything, but I know not everyone can see it that way… Especially if the hurdle is at the very start of a huge trip. In the end, I think if we roll with some punches and take a deep breath, we can likely figure out how to “make it to Africa” (like my friend eventually did). 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

The Bar is Low… Jump It

Empathy Kindness Respect

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Key Point: Do you remember the last time you were “wowed” by customer service?  How about by a fellow employee? This is when someone made you feel something so memorable, that you’ve quietly retold the story to yourself and/or shared it very publicly (perhaps even on social media).

I recently listened to stories in my work place. One customer service team member told us about making a very personal, emotional connection with someone who called in to assure his Master Card supported an upcoming trip to China. Our customer representative politely inquired about the trip and the client excitedly told her about the pending adoption of a 12-year-old Chinese child. They then mutually connected on the anticipation and anxiety of a new family addition.

Upon accommodating the customer’s Master Travel Card request for the above China trip, our service rep went on to send this customer a gift card to a local pizza parlor. Our team member had coincidentally adopted a child too, and a regular trip to the pizza parlor helped solidly connect their newly formed family. She genuinely wanted to share the “pizza parlor gift,” with hopes for a similar outcome for this new family. Upon returning home from China, the customer opened the gift card. They were touched, extremely grateful, and raved about the experience. To make the story better, a new out-of-province customer, unfamiliar with who our regional bank was, came into a branch to find out what made us different. Instead of sending marketing material on products and services, we retold the above story. The customer was impressed but not fully convinced. While he was thinking about moving his money to us, inspired by the Care Center story above, one of our team members sent two tickets to the prospective customer to enjoy the top view of his new city from the iconic Calgary Tower. This customer was so impacted by our thoughtful generosity, anticipation and propensity to act, that he moved ALL of his money to our bank. So here’s the deal… These two connected stories represent thoughtful, considerate acts, but it doesn’t take a superhero to make them happen. Anyone could have done this… But few of us do. Why?

Character Moves:

  1. Distinguish yourself by creating a “wow” for a customer. Sadly, and yet opportunistically, the bar is so very low. Anyone showing a sense of genuine empathy, followed by an act of “wow” can distinguish himself or herself memorably. Be THAT person. Remember a customer is the next person or process. If you can create a “wow,” you will be more than memorable. 
  1. Why not strategize and commit to “wowing” someone at work everyday? Remember that a wow does not necessarily have to be big, or expensive. It can be a simple act of care. If you do that thoughtfully and well, you will differentiate yourself. If not you, who? Why not? The bar is low. Stand out by being one of the few that takes a little intentional time.

Raising the wow bar in the Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I feel like “wow” factors happen in circles outside of work quite often… The small “wow.” It’s that twinkle of excitement when you slip the waiter your card like a spy to unexpectedly take care of a small group’s brunch before the bill comes, just because. Or when you’re going to Chick-Fil-A and decide to pick your roommate up a sandwich for later, because why not? That stuff is so simple… It’s that quick, burst of “good” you feel in the moment that overcomes any little monetary sum or effort taken. It needs no reciprocation, but I feel like that’s lost in the work environment sometimes… For example, I take a three-block jaunt to Starbucks everyday, and although I “offer” to fill my co-worker’s orders before turning my back out the door, I’m guilty of it being a little obligatory/disingenuous… I have, and would, but it doesn’t feel the same. Why? Maybe next time, I’ll insist, it’s definitely a low bar I can jump.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Hardy Optimism is a Choice

Abundance Growth mindset Happiness

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Key Point: The world serves up what we experience. It’s as easy and as difficult as that. Most of us are taught and even pushed to dream and have aspirations. Certainly, the children of baby boomers have been mostly encouraged to think and even plan on life rolling out according to the general “onward and upward” pattern of their parents; go to school, get a post secondary education, even better if it’s a graduate degree, meet a partner, acquire what you can, perhaps raise a family and live happily ever after. However while the actual data is that those who get a graduate degree actually do make more money, we know that our life/situations are totally and uniquely personal. Everyone has some distinct combination of so called “ups and downs” in a life/career. While we contribute to a statistic or trend, that data oversimplifies who we are and what’s specifically happening around us.

Emily Perl Kingsley, a celebrated writer, was asked to describe what it was like raising a child with a disability. She used an analogy of planning a trip to Italy with all the anticipation that accompanies such a wonderful journey. However when landing, the traveler is told that the plane is unexpectedly ending up and staying in Holland. Holland has much to offer, but it’s not Italy. Soon everyone is coming back from Italy bragging about the wonderful time they had there. She points out thoughtfully, that the pain of losing that Italy trip will never go away, because the loss of the dream is significant. Most importantly she then goes on to state,” however if you spend the rest of your life mourning the fact you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be FREE to enjoy the special, lovely things about Holland.” When some people do unexpectedly land in “Holland,” why do they feel so helpless and stuck in the mud?

I’m saddened when I meet people who feel unfairly victimized by the unplanned and unexpected situations they’re in. And yes, the “Holland” is much worse for some… It’s understandable that the pain of loss and things not going according to a dream is real and lasting. Yet like NFL coaching legend Vince Lombardi famously expressed, “it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.”

Character Moves:

  1. Learn and practice the skill of reframing! This is much more than “just blindly thinking positively.” It involves consciously shifting your mindset into a more opportunistic state by asking, “what is the opportunity in THIS?” If you genuinely answer that question, you change the look of the information or situation by literally changing the FRAME around your challenge or even existence. 
  1. In a famous study of executives who most effectively managed work stress and difficulties, (Illinois Bell, by Kobasa and Maddi) three big factors emerged: Strong social support, exercise and most importantly, personal hardiness. And the exceptional insight on hardiness was this, “If one has an optimistic appraisal (yet still realistic and honest) of events, it most often leads to decisive action that will alter those events!” An optimistic appraisal is the CHOICE to view personal events (including those landings in “Holland”) as interesting, important, subject to influence, and a potential for tremendous personal growth. That is personal hardiness!
  1. Remember: An optimistic APPRAISAL often leads to decisive ACTION that alters a situation. 

Hardy ho in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I’m approaching my 30th birthday, and in all honesty, I’m freaking out about it a little bit. Let’s just say I don’t want to dwell on the idea for long periods of time because if you were to ask me 10 years ago (as a freshman in college), I think I had a couple different ideas of where I’d be and what I’d be doing at this time… That’s when I remind myself that my life, like many millennial’s, is representative of the “pizza” theory. While some pizza slices are clearly better than others, at the end of the day, it’s still pizza… (Pizza snobs aside, the idea is there’s no “bad” pizza). Sure, I have my plans/goals for the gourmet parlor life in the future, but the “Papa Johns” life isn’t so bad in the meantime.

– Garrett 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Race Together!

Community Organizational culture Respect

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Key Point: Culture is about who you are, what you stand for and how you act. Many of you may have caught up with Starbucks‘ latest campaign on race relations. Their intention is to have baristas start a conversation with customers on the topic of “inclusion” by writing, #RaceTogether on the Starbucks cups. Do they really expect this to work while the barista is frantically churning though a line up of coffee drink orders? Why? Apparently this idea emerged from internal company discussions on the recent racial tension in Ferguson, Mo. (and elsewhere). The overall message of course, is one we all know, but don’t always represent; we’re ALL human beings. 

I’m sure Starbucks executives thrashed this #RaceTogether campaign over and over with all their internal and external advisors (advertising agencies, communication/P.R. experts and more) before launching. And guess what? Many in the Internet world have expectedly clobbered them, to the point that their VP of Communications deleted his Twitter account, apparently overwhelmed by vicious abuse and negative talk. “How dare Starbucks do this?” “How trivial!” “How ignorant!” “Superficial!” “Self righteous!” etc. What’s most interesting to me though, is that this conversation is exactly who Howard Schultz is and what the Starbucks brand stands for. Starbucks took a position to pay for all employees health care when many similar organizations ran the other way. They have been vocal about supporting gay rights and are explicitly against gun violence. So this is not about whether Starbucks is right or wrong. It is about being consistent with their brand. And they believe the Starbucks brand stands for conversation, respect and inclusion. You might sarcastically say inclusion means rich, white liberals? Frankly, I’m not writing this blog to argue whether Starbucks is right or wrong (although I personally love their courage and conviction to stand for human equality and respect. And people who know me understand that I’m a big Starbucks customer). What I’m applauding is the idea of genuinely living up to your brand; whatever it is. It’s not that baristas are expected to be experts in race relationships. This is about the conversation… “Good morning sir. Enjoy the Americano. What are your thoughts about #RaceTogether?” Starbucks has always been more about the extension of the family kitchen or living room than simply caffeine, or the best coffee selection. Starbucks has very much been about the betterment and connection of human kind, while also making a ton of profit selling arguably, overpriced java. Yet we go there in throngs around the world because it’s more than just coffee. We go because it’s Starbucks.

Garrett and my blog readers, thankfully represent all parts of the globe and most of you followers know I work for a financial institution. (Garrett’s day job is as a producer/reporter for a news agency’s media department). My company has the “outrageous” belief that it will reinvent banking for people. We want to reimagine all of our products and services in this context. And in the end, we are committed to the happiness of our customers. Cynics may snicker about this… The thought of “bankers making banking work for people? Their happiness? Haha, how dumb!” Well guess what? Just like Starbucks, that’s who we are! And everyone who works for us must believe this and act accordingly.

Character Moves:

  1. Know what your organization stands for and be explicit about what that means. Recognize that phrases like “customer service,” “quality,” etc. are mostly insufficient. If that’s what defines you and your organization, you will be bland.
  2. Be clear about what behaviors distinguish you from every one else, and hopefully better than your competition. Why would your customers pay a premium (like Starbucks) to buy from you? What role do you play in that regard? At Starbucks, it may be the cashier or barista that writes, #RaceTogether on the cup. And yet, as it is with every great company, it takes an entire system of people end to end, to define the culture.
  3. Please remember that most customers buy on emotion and a brand relationship is more than just price. McDonald’s specialty coffees have beat Starbucks on numerous blind taste tests worldwide. Yet, customers flock to Starbucks and pay a premium for their coffee. It’s not because we’re dumb, it’s because we support the brand AND also buy/enjoy the coffee taste/experience.

Race Together in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I read a compelling article on the subject that essentially argued this: Customers are up in arms that when they’re predictably in a hurry (and btw, in herds that “haven’t had their morning coffee yet”), they would be interrupted by barista-strangers asking specifics like, “how many (insert alternate race) Facebook friends do you have? How many (insert alternate race) people’s houses have you been to recently?” When many may not want to “talk” that morning at all, why would Starbucks expect people would want to discuss these topics? The intention is good, but boy oh boy, how could a P.R. team or marketing crew not predict that droves of trolls would attack this? Unfortunately, the open-ended execution just set this up for a massacre. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong either, but just like many of the #(corporate campaigns) we’ve seen before, they just don’t seem to work yet. They bring out the worst of the disgruntled, the most vindictive of the victimized, and the jerkiest of the instigating crap-starters. Definitely not the Character Triangle types. Starbucks may be all for human rights as a corporation, that’s awesome, but when people can’t even tolerate their names being spelled wrong on a $4 dollar cup of coffee, it might be best not to encourage what they talk about. Just like coffee, sometimes you gotta know when it’s too damn hot to touch. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

‘Moody Bitches’

Accountability Books Well-being

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Key Point: MBThe title of this blog refers to a book recently written by Julie Holland M.D. The book opens up with: “Women today are overworked and exhausted.” One of the book’s most popular chapters is reportedly: “You. Need. Downtime.”

I think it’s fair to say that someone could write a book with the title “Crabby Bastards” focusing on men, and from what I’m sensing, in the world of work, it could also start with: “Men today are overworked and exhausted.” I also believe one of the most popular chapters of this fictitious book could be: “You. Need. Downtime.”

In a very short period of time, perhaps less than a decade, we have seen a violent increase in personal demands in work/life in the western world. Concepts like “time management,” “work/life balance,” “separating work from home,” “two week annual summer vacations,” “nine to five,” are frankly not very relevant or helpful. And we know that change, which of course is a constant, will only continue to speed up.

Perhaps what’s just as important will be the severity of changes. And institutions are not likely to help us with stress relief. Workplaces will be more 24/7, technology will not slow down, competition will not decrease, and legislation (like more statutory holiday time) is not likely to occur. Obviously there will be NO more time available and statements like, “I don’t have time,” will become more unacceptable and even considered “lame.” We all have the same amount of time and the point is whether we choose to make time available or not. Productivity and creating happiness will be exclusively ours. And this is a wonderful thing. Personal autonomy and control are vital for personal freedom, and the basis for mental and emotional wellness. I’m not foolish enough to say that we will have the total freedom to choose what, when and how we work. However, I am sure we will be able to choose our perspective better, and it will be up to us to personally determine and decide whether we want to be “overworked and exhausted.” 

Character Moves:

1. Learn how to refuel… Daily… Perhaps hourly. Few of us are able to be effective at managing our exhausted levels (energy) by refueling just on weekends, days off, and vacations. Yes, those breaks remain important. But what is every bit as important is to learn techniques to help refuel all the time. Science is showing us the way. The reason we’re seeing people at work drinking more water, eating healthier, doing daily mediation, applying centering/breathing techniques, taking walking meetings, even having naps at work, etc. is not just trendy “hippy” type stuff. It’s because we need to refuel or we will fail. Think of a pit stop during any race… Take poor pit stops, and you lose. Recommendation: Read Peter Bregman’s Four Seconds.

2. Invest more in personal relationships. Perhaps the most important energy investment and creation comes from being around people we care for, and who deeply care for us. This may be so obvious. However in the stress inducing environment we live in, the tendency might be to become more reclusive and alone, hanging out more with a pet and Facebook. We need each other. Counterintuitively, perhaps but the more we give to each other, the less exhausted and overwhelmed we feel. For a guy who likes to come home, work out in front of Netflix, and avoid connecting as much as I need… Well I must get off the couch and love more.

R (refuel) and R (relationships) in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: We seem to have the understanding that work is pervasive and something like that annual “two week vacation” is a myth we saw in a movie from the ’80’s. To me, that’s ok. Instead, the focus has changed to being completely passionate about what I do, who I work for, and what I’m contributing to. Sure, we all need our down time, but when people explain that they “love their jobs” and truly mean it, how much of a perfect “vacation” does that sound like? Let’s all aim for that. 

– Garrett 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis