Leadership & Humility Training

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

This week my work hours are filled with train­ing. I spent the first two days learn­ing how to con­duct fa­cil­ity as­sess­ments for ADA stan­dards — in iso­la­tion, this not typ­i­cally some­thing that an IT guy would be ex­pected to learn — but there are good or­ga­ni­za­tional rea­sons for me to be in­volved at this level of de­tail. Two days down, two more to go for next week. Today and to­mor­row I’m tak­ing Crucial Conversations — learn­ing tech­niques to ap­ply rea­son and tact in im­por­tant sit­u­a­tions where our lizard hind­brains make it dif­fi­cult to be rea­son­able or tact­ful.

I have been to quite a few lead­er­ship acad­e­mies, soft skills, and sundry other train­ings since I was in high school — there’s al­ways some­thing new to learn — and that’s the main point I have here. There’s al­ways some­thing new to learn.

We’re so­cial pri­mates, so en­forc­ing sta­tus through si­lence or vi­o­lence is the evo­lu­tion­ary rule. Culture, dif­fer­ent cul­tures, and cul­tural be­hav­iors in this con­text are tools just as much as a knap­ping stone is a tool — things we use to solve prob­lems. Keeping that in mind en­forces a kind of hu­mil­ity. Status is pride-bound. A chain of bosses pulled from a bar­rel of mon­keys. Leadership is hum­ble, it aims at the goal, not the sta­tus. The type of or­ga­ni­za­tion (a group of so­cial pri­mates with dif­fer­ent roles and dif­fer­ent sta­tuses united around com­mon goals) that leads is one that makes a com­mit­ment to be a cer­tain way, rec­og­nizes its weak­nesses with hu­mil­ity, and de­ter­mi­nes the work to meet those com­mon goals.

Following ADA stan­dards (and sec­tion 508 stan­dards to tie it in to my own work) re­quires the abil­ity to step out of one’s own sta­tus in or­der to un­der­stand how we can be mind­ful of the needs of oth­ers. It’s an on­go­ing hum­bling, be­cause lead­er­ship is about ad­mit­ting your ig­no­rance and ac­cept­ing that there is al­ways some­thing new to learn.

Fashion

Sunday, 6 March 2016

I’ve spent the last cou­ple of years tak­ing a greater in­ter­est in dress­ing well — which has mor­phed into a greater in­ter­est in style — which has mor­phed into a greater in­ter­est in fash­ion — which is some­thing I’ve never un­der­stood. Though, fi­nally, I’m be­gin­ning to. I think.

There have been scat­tered mo­ments in my life where I had a well-de­fined per­sonal style, my cu­rated EDM-hippy vibe in high school (neon-printed rayon shirts that glowed un­der black­light and vin­tage pants), proto-Zuckerbergian ba­sic neu­tral norm­core for post-col­le­giate of­fice work (khakis, grey t-shirts, blue but­ton-downs), to my cur­rent ur­ban yup­pie pro­fes­sor dad steez (ubiq­ui­tous cor­duroy jacket, flat-brimmed hat, worn-in selvedge, high tops).

If I had to as­sign three ma­jor qual­i­ties to clothes they would be ma­te­rial util­ity (what’s it used for?), qual­ity (how well is it made?), and com­mu­ni­ca­tion (what does it mean to wear it?). Traditionally, I barely cared about any of these — al­though util­ity would be the clos­est, which is the sta­tus quo for most folks (men es­pe­cially). I would buy the cheap­est clothes that would serve the great­est num­ber of pur­poses and cared noth­ing about fit, prove­nance, ap­pear­ance or style. So the world of high fash­ion seemed com­pletely lu­di­crous to me. I never con­sciously con­sid­ered that cloth­ing could be art.

I am a per­son who ap­pre­ci­ates the well-crafted. I even­tu­ally grew tired of buy­ing cheap clothes that don’t fit my pro­por­tions and dis­in­te­grated af­ter a wash or two. I’ve sought well-crafted, American-made cloth­ing for the last 2 years, and through the re­search in and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of that craft, I’ve been able to look to the next step to see fash­ion as art. The util­ity might be non-ex­is­tent — but there’s no util­ity to vi­sual art, mu­sic, or cre­ative writ­ing ei­ther. I’m talk­ing ma­te­rial util­ity, not so­cial util­ity.

So now I pay at­ten­tion to my own dress, to the dress of oth­ers’, and to some ex­tent what’s abuzz in fash­ion be­cause I took the time to learn the lan­guage & what I say by the way I dress. A lot of it still seems like non­sense to me, but I’m will­ing to at­trib­ute that to my ig­no­rance. Here’s to fur­ther learn­ing.

Saccades

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Today, while read­ing Tom Vanderbilt’s The Pleasure and Pain of Speed from Nautilus’ Issue 9, I learned about the sac­cade. This is the term for the rapid move­ment of eyes be­tween fix­a­tion on dif­fer­ent ob­jects. Our vi­sual per­cep­tion is ba­si­cally turned off dur­ing this time — which, ap­par­ently, makes up about 60 — 90 min­utes of our day.

This ties in nicely to an an­thro­po­log­i­cal the­ory I have that I wrote about over a decade ago: The Space Between Thoughts. I think we have an in­stinc­tual aware­ness that our per­cep­tions are in­com­plete — and then we come up with all kinds of sto­ries and the­o­ries for what hap­pens in those gaps, and where our per­cep­tion fails. What hap­pens dur­ing a sac­cade. The sac­cade is where the coin reap­pears — where the magic hap­pens.

It’s nice to fi­nally have a word for it.

Legerdemain

Friday, 25 September 2015

            spi­der­web flag /​/​ on fog flag­pole
  porce­lain vase of beasts /​/​ in rare inks
     huge cube of con­crete /​/​ speck­led egg in­side.
             back­wards map /​/​ for a maze of mir­rors
                onion skin /​/​ atop onion skin
              time be /​/​ tween star /​/​ light
             pond of rocks /​/​ pond of rocks
           a pond of rocks /​/​ upon whose
         foun­da­tion a shat /​/​ ter rain falls
        and while you were /​/​ read­ing this
      cater­corner, edge of /​/​ eye, pe­riph­eral
                  we sneak /​/​ on rat feet
               on rat feet /​/​ scut­tle scaf­folds
               to build or /​/​ crash or crash
               we the loud /​/​ est shout
           mil­len­nia built /​/​ ma­gi­cian hands
                  reck­less /​/​ cal­cu­la­tion
        pa­pier-mâché masks /​/​ wa­ter­color thun­der­storm
           mon­ster fear­ing /​/​ above the bed
         myth minted daily /​/​ god cow­er­ing
               about women /​/​ god? or just
                           /​/​ men

About Giving Up

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Giving up is some­thing I’ve been try­ing to learn the last cou­ple of years. It doesn’t come nat­u­rally to me (or any American, prob­a­bly), but it does take away some chronic stres­sors. From a busi­ness stand­point, the things I’ve given up on are all things that have had no re­turn on the in­vest­ment I’ve made try­ing to achieve them. I’m not say­ing that the good things in life must be de­fined in terms of cap­i­tal, but I have lim­ited means to in­vest, and so I’ve opted out of mar­kets where I’ve been wast­ing my time.

Relationships

I’ve given up on dat­ing. My last re­la­tion­ship ended in February, and in that time I’ve gone on 3 dates, and have been can­celed on or stood up prob­a­bly 9 times. I haven’t even tried since June. I’m a 34 year-old sin­gle dad, which severely lim­its both the avail­able time, and the num­ber of women who might be in­ter­ested in me that I am also in­ter­ested in. For awhile I was go­ing out by my­self, but I be­came en­vi­ous of all the cou­ples I saw. For all the time, money, and ef­fort I was ex­pend­ing, I was in the same spot. I keep re­view­ing past re­la­tion­ships in hind­sight and sec­ond-guess­ing my de­ci­sion-mak­ing. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, there’s never a clear an­swer when it comes to love.

Friends

I threw a party a few weeks ago and in­vited about a dozen peo­ple that I con­sider friends or see on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Most said they’d come, but only three showed up. A year ago I would have in­vited dozens of peo­ple, but in that time I’ve re­duced my “friend list” from a cou­ple hun­dred to about four dozen. I re­moved every­one who I hadn’t seen or heard from in nine months or more. I’ve also pretty much stopped us­ing Facebook. I un­fol­lowed every­one left on my friends list, and only use it for mes­sen­ger or events. Drastic, yeah, but if peo­ple want my com­pany, they know how to get in touch. The peo­ple I’m still in touch with, I was in touch with on the reg­u­lar be­fore. I have three folks I’d con­sider good friends. We talk weekly, and did so even be­fore I started ra­dio si­lence.

Life Goals

By now I was hop­ing to be mar­ried, with a fleet of kids, and liv­ing in a nice home that I own. To be set­tled down. Maybe have air con­di­tion­ing. I’ve given up on those goals. I made a cou­ple of poor de­ci­sions in 2007 that ir­rev­o­ca­bly changed my life. I’ve re­signed my­self to be­ing a sin­gle dad; to not hav­ing any more kids; to rent­ing for the rest of my life. The kids piece is the hard­est one for me to rec­on­cile my­self with. As an only child, I al­ways swore that I would have more than one child my­self. Being a dad is the great­est thing that has ever hap­pened to me, but it’s only go­ing to hap­pen once.

So, what?

Having given up on the above, I am bet­ter able to fo­cus and in­vest my en­ergies on be­ing a dad to Abraham, and work­ing hard at my job. After those items are squared away, I’m fairly monas­tic. Bike rides, walk­ing my dog, main­tain­ing the house I rent. Trying to sim­plify. If not happy, at least con­tent; mind­ful. It is very hard.

Historical Footnotes

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

I posit that the event hori­zon of “his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant” as a qual­ity of in­for­ma­tion is the point at which the dataset dis­ap­pears from liv­ing mem­ory. The mag­ni­tude of cer­tain events en­sures that they will be recorded for pos­ter­ity, but even then, the rea­sons be­hind that record­ing fade as the peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­enced it die. I might be us­ing the wrong terms here. Maybe it’s not his­tory I’m talk­ing about, but an­thro­pol­ogy. History is “these are the things that hap­pened”; an­thro­pol­ogy is “these are the ways peo­ple acted.”

Living as I do, in a so­ci­ety where many peo­ple are ar­guably ob­sessed with record­ing and archiv­ing every de­tail of their lives, I won­der what meth­ods fu­ture historians/​anthropologists will use to sift wheat from chaff — es­pe­cially when, as this post is ev­i­dence for, so much of what is shared and saved is chaff.

That’s long-term his­toric­ity. If his­tory is still be­ing recorded 5,000 years from now, this whole epoch will likely be re­duced to a one-liner: “An age of tech­no­log­i­cal growth so rapid it’s ef­fects threat­ened to de­stroy civ­i­liza­tion.”

Specific to this is the rise of the au­to­mated au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. People have been post­ing things on­line so long now that there are ser­vices to show us and let us share what we were do­ing to the day, 1, 3, 5, or 10 years ago. Is there a broader de­sire to con­sume these mini-his­to­ries, or do they just ex­ist to serve our need to feel more im­por­tant than we are? It doesn’t have to be either/​or. My bet is that it’s an ad­mix­ture of onanism, ex­hi­bi­tion­ism, and voyeurism.

Signal to noise de­pends on your ears.

Trash is trea­sure.

Some Job Interview Basics

Sunday, 12 July 2015

I’ve been on the other side of the ta­ble for job in­ter­views the last few months. One thing that I’ve no­ticed is lack of can­di­date prepa­ra­tion in the in­ter­view process. I want to hire peo­ple who work hard to get the job they’ve ap­plied for. Here’s what I like to see from a can­di­date:

  • Clarity, hon­esty, pre­ci­sion, con­ci­sion. Your cover let­ter, re­sumé, and in­ter­ac­tions with the staff in­ter­view­ing you should demon­strate forth­right­ness. If you don’t know some­thing, ad­mit it. That will get you more points than try­ing to weasel your way around the an­swer. Don’t ram­ble.
  • Demonstrated knowl­edge of the busi­ness and po­si­tion. If you know jack about the or­ga­ni­za­tion or the position’s re­quire­ments, you ap­pear ill-pre­pared.
  • Asking ques­tions about the busi­ness and how the po­si­tion fits within it. If you do not show a de­sire to un­der­stand how a job fits within an or­ga­ni­za­tion, you prob­a­bly do not care about the organization’s mis­sion or val­ues.
  • Show re­spect for the process by dress­ing up. You don’t have to be rich to look nice, and peo­ple no­tice. I wore a tie to my in­ter­view at Burger King when I was 15½. I wore a tie to my in­ter­view as a sea­sonal teamster/​warehouseman when I was 18.
  • Be ready to an­swer tough ques­tions. Even a me­nial job will re­quire the abil­ity to deal with the un­ex­pected. We’ll want to know that you know how to han­dle those un­ex­pected sit­u­a­tions.

It boils down to one rule: Work as hard to get the job as you’ll work if you get it.

We’ll no­tice.