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Culture

Honesty, Culture, and the Clash with Leadership

September 3, 2016
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I recently read a post on WP Tavern (one of my fav WP blogs to read) that brought up the question of the “us vs. them” mentality. And then I read another blog post that was a reaction to the original post.  And it got me thinking…but not about WordPress core leadership. To be completely honest with you, I’m not as involved in WordPress contributions as I’d like to be, but that is my fault and mine alone. However, it did make me contemplate leadership in general. It seems like we are seeing a rise in the toxic leader and employees that clash with leadership are finding new companies.

Lately, I’ve been starting a lot of my sentences with the words “to be completely honest with you..” as if I’m trying to get a point across that merits truthfulness. When, realistically, I try to be as honest as I can be when speaking about things like work and the environment we collaborate in. Yes…as honest as I can be…and that thought, that thought right there (you had it too, didn’t you!?), that thought makes me pause. I want to uncover that thought because it’s one that we don’t talk about. And it’s universal across all businesses, all industries.

That thought of being honest…

This is a really hard concept to capture, comprehend, and bring to light…because, let’s face it, we hold back. Quite. A. Lot. And to a certain extent, we have to. We are all professionals in a professional world, yet we don’t think that way about some of the people we interact with. I think we’ve all been in these situations where we’re casually talking with a new colleague when they ask the question “so, what should I know about our CEO?” Maybe they ask “what are your thoughts on the way she handled that meeting?” We all want to be honest with a new coworker about the flaws of our bosses or how we think our manager handled that last working session, but we hold back when they ask.

Then there’s being honest with your CEO or boss. Should you have to worry about whether or not you’re going to get fired for bringing up an issue at work. Or should you have to feel scared of retribution from a manager, director, or the CEO of your company for doing something you feel is right? Probably not, but it happens all the time. It happens because there’s usually a lack of communication in the hierarchy of an organization.  Or the organization itself breeds dishonesty. But what’s the one thing that affects communication more than anything else? Behavior.

“People leave managers, not companies.”

I forget who said it, but people leave their manager, not their company. For the most part, I believe this to be true. You have probably left a company because you lack faith in your leadership or are at odds with them. Leaders come in different shapes and sizes. There’s no leadership school that you can send someone to to receive leadership training. Well, I guess there are leadership seminars and whatnot. But it’s a trait that a). people are born with, or b). (and more likely) people develop over time, or c). (most likely) people are committed to improving through team feedback, lessons learned, and the will to lead in a better capacity.

In my opinion, trust (or lack there of) in your leadership really comes down to behavior. Now everyone says it would be healthier to bring up your grievances, but whether or not team members actually do this is a reflection of how comfortable they feel with leadership and their behavior. How can employees feel comfortable airing their issues if their leadership is known for explosive behavior? On the flipside to that, if your leadership is known for not having explosive behavior, but more passive aggressive behavior, I ask again—how can employees feel comfortable airing their issues? My career has spanned many industries, and I’ve come in contact with many leaders, some good, some bad, and very few who have been phenomenal! It’s the leaders that instill a judgment-free, open-door, challenging environment that enables teams to shine. And the leaders that don’t, usually see a high turnover rate.

Behavior begets behavior…

Behavior plays such a huge role in leadership skills. I’m sure we’ve all had that Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde boss that we’re frightened to go to because we’re not sure what reaction we’ll get from them. That’s setting a tone for the entire company to not raise future issues. We’ve also probably all had the passive aggressive boss that shuts you out after a remark is made or an idea is mentioned that wasn’t well-received, and you end up getting the silent treatment for two weeks. Employees will feel like speaking up isn’t worth the effort or retribution.

Behavior begets behavior, and it starts at the top. What do I mean by that? Well, a company, agency, or startup, is usually a reflection of the leadership. If a CEO is transparent with his employees, they’ll most likely be transparent with the CEO. When a Director of Marketing is an innovative leader, her team will most likely become innovative themselves. If a manager wants their team members to go to networking events, then that manager should be going to them as well.  Employees will usually mirror the behavior they see leadership display. We’ve all heard the term “lead by example.”

A company culture will be defined by the behavior leadership teams exhibit. And without the support of leadership, then a company’s culture has no chance of actually changing for the better. Good staff don’t want to work in a company that breeds a culture of fear or mediocrity.

Ethics also play a big role…

I have a moral code that I live by, as I’m sure you do too. Companies have the same thing, they call them values. But I think some companies have values just for the sake of having values. Without standards that can help measure the commitment one has toward their values, then they’re just a punchline.

I’ve been involved in the retail, sales, construction, and technology industries. They all have a mixed bag of people who want to do the right thing, those that seem like they don’t care, and the others that are balancing between ethics and cutting corners. Individuals have ethics, groups have ethics, and at times they can be at odds. They can also be a glaring example of a leader’s backbone. Leaders need to be held to a higher ethical standard because interpretations are dependent on those they lead. And too many times do we see leaders’ actions as “do as I say, not as I do” hypocrisy that begins to creep into an entire organization.

Finding that right mix…

What happens when you’re odds with your leadership? Or what happens when you can’t be honest with them? You start to hate your job, and essentially your life. No one wants to compromise their ethics for getting better results (or what may seem like better results) at work. But people do it. No one wants to be dishonest with their coworkers about the behavior of their CEO. But we do it. And we rationalize why. “Oh, I really need this job.” “The benefits are good, and it’s something I can tolerate for now.” Your inner self is screaming at you to leave now!!! And maybe you should.

Why do you think there are so many freelancers out there? How many times have you heard someone say “I’m going to open up my own business because I can do this better?” Many, I’m sure. But if you don’t want to be a freelancer or business owner, then what are your options? Finding that right mix of industry, coworkers, and leadership that’ll challenge you and make you feel at home.

Thriving with collaboration and innovation

Seek out industries you have a passion for. Seek out companies and other individuals that have similar values and standards. Check out Glassdoor Best Places to Work, GreatPlacesToWork.com, or any other rating site. When you find a company that looks good, check them out, check out their products, their reviews, their case studies, testimonials, etc. Talk with employees and former employees. Seek out the companies that are accomplishing things you’d want to accomplish too.

Bring your moral code to the team, bring your values and standards along too. When you start at a new company, bring your innovation, collaborate with team members in an open and honest way. If you can show your energy and enthusiasm, you’ll most likely attract those with the same energy and enthusiasm. Getting into a company where leaders openly challenge you to do your best work the right way is rare. When you find that place, it’s a place to stay.

I just started at a new company and so far, they’re super collaborative, innovative, and transparent. But I also have the added value of working with a leader I trust from years ago, so that’s a plus. Our portfolio is huge, we work with some really cool technology, and we have a global team. I’m looking forward to this next chapter and the team I’m doing it with. But what if you’re in a different position than me?

Co-existing with leaders you don’t necessarily agree with…

This has always been hard for me, even after I air my grievances with a leader. But if you’re in the throes of a shitty situation at work that stems from your lack of faith in your leadership, here are a few options:

  1. Confront your leader — I know that this might be a hard pill to swallow, but facing the situation head on is the quickest route to understanding if something’s fixable or not. If it’s fixable, awesome. If not, then maybe it’s time to move on.
  2. Work more with your leader — If you work closely with your leader, it’ll lead to a few things. A better understanding of each others’ roles. You can see how they treat other workers. And hopefully you can find common ground.
  3. Focus on things you can control — If you don’t get along with a leader, then focus your attention on your work and doing it really, really well. Producing great results will set you a part.
  4. Maybe it’s time to find something else — If you’ve exhausted all other possibilities, then maybe it is time to leave. And there is no shame in that.

I’m positive that we’ve all been there. Working with leaders you can’t trust, can’t be honest with, or don’t agree with can make work a negative experience. Remember to hold on to your ethics and standards. and as long as you can be honest in a tactful and constructive way, you should be able to make your situation better, or find a better situation.

Revised Listserve… and the Hamster Wheel

June 18, 2016
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It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.

I wrote a post a while ago on what I would write if I won the listserve. It’s a cool community of about 25,000 people, all over the world, who are on an email list. Every single day a new winner emerges and gets to write a single email to the ever-growing subscriber list. That email can say whatever you want it to say, you can write and inform and inspire and vent and reminisce as long as you don’t add any links of any kind. So, no links to your business or website or blog or whatever, but you can promote yourself or your music or your art or your creativity or whatever, any way you’d like.

Communities that captivate…

I’ve been an avid member of this community for over a year now, I’ve never won…..bummer. Yet there is still hope that I will one day have my time in the spotlight to speak to the other members of this community.

The Listserve in textI’ve been captivated by people’s willingness to share their lives, it’s as breathtaking as it is depressing. And I mean that in a way that connotes true deep sadness from my own life. Because…. I think I’ve forgotten the meaning of my own life. People talk about certain moments in their life that changed them, parents discuss their child being transgender, or how saving the life of a stranger morphed them, or how their job could either help or destroy a life, or a high-schooler contemplating his options for college and how it’s such a dramatic decision. People take these moments, they take their lives, and they need to attach a meaning to it, because meaning is what we are all here for.

We all have meaning…it’s the reason we do things we don’t necessarily want to do.

We all have meaning (or at least I hope we do), it’s the reason we get up in the morning, it’s the reason we do things we don’t necessarily want to do. But without that meaning, life is lost. I feel as we grow older, that meaning changes into something we didn’t necessarily mean it to change into. I get that dreams fade, or disappear, or you tell yourself you’re an adult now, so your dream of being an artist has just got to be a hobby. And that’s ok, except for when you resign yourself to the fact that “this is it” — that’s a horrible place to be.

People say get a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. But as most of us know, that’s hard to do. If you had millions of dollars and never had to work another day in your life, what would you spend your time doing?

The heartbreak that I feel sometimes and this dysphoria inside makes me gaze back on my previous years, the ones that are long behind me, yet still dance around my mind like party-goers on a mischievous night. I’ve had moments too that change me. Moments that add meaning to my life. Moments that are so meaningful you segment your life into two sections: before this moment, and after it.

It makes me want to search again, to find anything that’s meaningful, to feel anything that isn’t the numbness of my everyday life. But I’m here, writing this post, instead of out there, trying to live.

inspiring sunset over an island ocean
Random Sunset Image
Hopefully that cheered you up from my depressing rant!

I glimpse inward and realize that my life has come to a cross-roads…as many lives do over the course of a natural life-span. I am not close to where I want to be. I am living on the edge of a precipice that is miles outside the inner warmth of my most prized possession—my happiness. And I believe I’m not alone.

Technology and its correlation to our lives…

I recently wrote a post on the affects of technology in our culture and I’ve briefly searched the internet to find a lot more on the subject: We are not obligated to build our lives around technology and Technology is changing how we live, but it needs to change how we work. And the list goes on and on… The point to make here is that many of us, and I do mean many, use technology as their crutch or their excuse. I know I do. To not live a life that you truly want. It’s gotten so easy to be distracted by technology, and work, and emails, and Facebook, that I have to wonder to myself if we’re all really living anymore. And I think there’s a direct correlation to people’s (I don’t want to called it unhappiness, but..) uneasiness of their current situations. Many people live to work, right? Find a good job, find a career, get married, have kids, stability, savings, retirement….oh retirement, now I can pursue the things I want?? I know people say “well…that’s just life..” but I ask — “does it have to be?

Sustainable living versus the hamster wheel of life

I recently started looking into articles about people living off the grid. I know, we’ve all heard that term, and do we really understand what it means? Well, off the grid means you live a sustainable life, which means if something happened to the city water supply or electricity went down for an entire county, you’d be comfortable! I found this article about the off-the-grid guy and how he went from paying thousands and thousands of dollars every year on things like sewage, water, and electricity to paying only $300 per year in bills, that’s pretty awesome! If you want to read his story, check it out – http://www.vice.com/read/a-guy-whos-been-living-off-the-grid-for-20-years-how-i-can-live-more-sustainably

And he’s not the only one who’s done this, there have been others. And now what we’re seeing is that “living off the grid” is being banned in certain areas. That’s right, parts of Canada and the U.S. are now banning living off the grid. Which seems really crappy to me. Because if you take the guy who “lives off the grid” and see what he was paying for bills every year, and what he now pays, that’s a significant decrease. Yet people trying to be sustainable and leave a smaller carbon footprint on the earth, are being banned to do so. Why is that?

I don’t want to call it conspiracy, but we live in a hamster wheel most days. Get a job, buy a house, workCartoon business guy running on a hamster wheel to pay off that house (it’ll only take you a lifetime!), spend money to live in that house on extras like water, electricity, cable, garbage disposal, lawn treatments, repairs, and the list goes on. And this is why humans work constantly, to pay for the American dream that really doesn’t feel like a dream anymore. It feels like a trap.

So….what IS important? I guess my guess is as a good as yours. What’s important to me? I mean, when I really sit down and think about it? My relationships. With my family, my friends, the people I’ve connected with over the years. The things I’m passionate about are important to me like music and writing. The dreams I still have that I won’t let die. I’m also really interested in technology, that’s why I blog about it and work in it. But I can’t use it as a crutch anymore, it needs to be used thoughtfully and not all the time. Otherwise, I feel like my life will just pass by and the days of feeling like I’m really living will be over. I don’t want that, I don’t think anyone does.

And just to be clear, I’m not telling anyone they need to live off the grid or not be on the computer as much. What I’m saying is this… when the road ends for you and you look back on your life, what regrets will you have? What will you wish you would have done? Do that thing….NOW!!!

Top TV Shows Ever!

June 17, 2016
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And the top T.V. shows list continues…

Only this time, it’s the top tv shows ever, of all time! I know, I know..how can you really tell what the greatest tv shows of all time are? Well…I’ll start by saying this… these TV shows are the ones I love the most and have watched them over and over again.

So, a few guidelines for this:

  • The TV shows have to be over, that means no more episodes to come, otherwise it could end up sucking well after this post is already written
  • There will be no sitcoms in this list, not to say there might not be comedy (actually there probably won’t be), but no sitcoms
  • This can be both cable network TV shows and premium channel TV shows, obviously channels like HBO and Showtime have some really kickass shows

That’s it for the guidelines. But one quick note, I couldn’t get the ordered list to go from 5 to 1, so it goes from 1 to 5, however, this is a countdown. Out of my top five favorite TV shows, number 1 here, is actually my number 5, get it? Ok, cool! Without further ado, let’s just get right to it.

The Top TV Shows Ever

  1. Sons of Anarchy (2008 – 2014): Hands down, the best motorcycle club TV show ever. I actually think this might be the only motorcycle club TV show ever, but I’d have to think about it. Well, there is American Chopper and CHiPs, but those don’t compare to the ultimate motorcycle club show. SOA was just awesome! It follows the lives of the men of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Originals), yeah…it’s a mouthful. Sons of Anarchy Everything rotated around a little town called Charming (a fictional town located somewhere outside San Fransisco), it’s where SAMCRO was headquartered and their fearless leader, Jackson “Jax” Teller (well, not until season 5), took care of business. This show had just about every known criminal element in it: Motorcycle gangs, the IRA, the Mexican Drug Cartels, street gangs, white supremacists, and more! As the seasons progressed, we see a lot of crazy shit happen. The club kills its own president, Jax kills his own mother because she killed Jax’s wife. Oh, the bloodshed! But it was well done, and well worth the hours I spent watching it! Bravo, FX, bravo!
  2. Carnivàle (2003 – 2005): This is one you may not be familiar with because it was only on HBO for 2 short seasons, but man, it had quite the impact on me! Carnivàle takes place amidst the Great Carnivàle tv show Depression and Dust Bowl era. It follows one lone carnival team of misfits, weirdos, bearded ladies, psychics, and more (aptly named Carnivàle). In the first episode, the carnival stops in a town called Milfay where they pick up a young man named Ben Hawkins. Ben is a healer, but doesn’t understand the magnitude of his power until Management (the unknown entity that runs Carnivàle) tells him what’s he’s capable of. The other story line follows a preacher that has his own special powers, which are seeing people’s darkest secrets and bringing them to light. The ending episode brings these two stories together and culminates in a show down between good and evil! It’s just a super cool exploration of the powers that man could possess if they weren’t actually men, lol! And the fact that it’s got Carnies, and takes place during the Great Depression, just makes this show so much worth watching. It’s cool, creepy, suspenseful, and has an awesome ending!
  3. Dexter (2006 – 2013): Ah — the killer of killers, the man of all men, Dexter! Yeayah! This show was awesome for a couple of different reasons. 1). Dexter gets soooo much justice. I mean, he really does. He goes after the bad guys!! Granted, he’s a bad guy, but not really. 2). Dexter is a serial Dexter's face wrapped in plastic wrapkiller…with morals, he’s got a moral code. Granted, his father had to instill that into him over years and years of practice, but he finally got it! The show really does make you root for the serial killer. Dexter works as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department, where each season he encounters new enemies and serial killers. He also has to keep an eye out for his crazy sister, played by the lovely Jennifer Carpenter, and his girlfriend who has her own baggage as well as some kids that love Dexter. But every season brings another overarching story line, while Dexter still manages to kill on a weekly basis. Scouting out killers, he gets absolute proof of their ungodly deeds, and then wrapping them in plastic on a murder board where he usually yields a weapon that’s fitting for that particular prey. All in all, it’s provocatively suspenseful and wonderfully amusing. And I must say, I didn’t mind the ending. Everyone seems to have hated this ending, but not I! I actually thought it was rather befitting. Everyone thinks Dexter dies in the hurricane, but he fakes his own death and gets to continue doing what he does best…kill killers!
  4. Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013): Say my name…I’m the man that killed Gus Fring.  Walter White, the most deadliest chemist to ever have graced our living rooms! This TV show was almost number one, almost! When it first started, I didn’t know what to think of it. Here’s this high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer, and he wants to leave his family with some cash before he dies. Well…we all know how that turned out. Instead of doing what he set out to do, Walter White became the meth kingpin of Albuquerque. Going up against mid level dealers first, then taking on the cartel themselves, and finally ending in a hail of gunfire with the white supremacist gang he hired for muscle. Wow, was this show just fantastic. The acting was phenomenal. WalterWhite&JessePinkmanBryan Cranston was superb in his role as the unassuming chemist morphing into the bad-ass Heisenberg. And then there was Aaron Paul, as Jesse Pinkman, so conflicted about his role in Walter White’s transformation and the bodies that start dropping, he starts using and abusing the drug they’re cooking up. The dynamic between the two of these characters really made for great television. I believe they both won some Emmy’s, as well they should! I’m not sure America will ever have a show quite like this for years, if not decades, to come.
  5. The Wire (2002 – 2008): And the number one spot goes to…..The Wire! If you haven’t seen this series, then you really have no idea what you are missing out on. This TV show is by far, hands down, the best television show ever written in the history of TV. I know, bold statement, right? Just watch the show. It’s an in-depth character study of the people and life on the streets of big bad Baltimore. the police of the tv show 'the wire'All 5 seasons follow the players of the West Baltimore drug trade and the street level dealers. But each season is a different aspect of Baltimore infrastructure; Season 1 is the police, season 2 is the Baltimore port (the docks), season 3 is the politics, season 4 the school system, and season 5 the newspaper. So each season we see new faces and new characters among the old ones. Major characters will die off halfway through a season, it’s crazy. But for the most part it shows the efforts the police take to stop the drug dealers and the discipline the dealers adhere to to not get caught. It’s written by a guy who used to work for the newspaper in Baltimore and report on the police beat. It’s such a realistic view of life in Baltimore (actually, I have no idea because I’ve only driven through Baltimore), but from what I’ve heard The Wire hits really close to home for Baltimore street life. The series even uses real reformed criminals as some of the characters. There are literally dozens and dozens of characters in this series to name. But here are a few: McNulty – the hard drinking and whoring police detective that constantly pisses off his bosses; Bubbles – the drug addicted street merchant with a heart of gold who runs around all day selling whatever he can to get his fix; Omar – actually based on a real person, is the homosexual stick-up artist who robs drug dealers and whistles “the cheese stands alone” as a mantra when he’s on the warpath; Herc and Carver – the two street busting cops who are stupid yet smart at the same time; Avon Barksdale – the drug kingpin of West Baltimore whothe drug dealers of the tv show 'the wire' gets sentenced to prison time in season one; Bodie – one of Barksdale’s soldiers; Ronnie – the pretty DA woman who litigates the drug dealers and falls in love with Lieutenant Daniels, the African-American rising star of the police force, but still has a little dirt on him; Kima Greggs – the lesbian cop who isn’t ready to settle down; Stringer Bell – the gentleman business gangster and the right hand man of Avon; Lester Freamon – the real police who got put into the “evidence unit” after he ran afoul of his bosses; Marlo Stanfield – the young kingpin who takes over the Barksdale territory; Snoop – the weirdest talking Baltimore woman gangster you’ll ever hear; and the list just goes on and on and on…. But as the seasons tick by, you’ll be surprised at every turn because those who deserve it in this show, rarely ever get it in the end, but isn’t that how life goes? I’ve watched this series a few times and every time it gets better and better! Oh, and Method Man’s in it and he plays a real prick….he gets it in the end!

I know what you are thinking, it must have taken me a long time to watch all those episodes, and you’re right, it did. But every hour sure was worth it! I live vicariously through the characters on these television shows as I imagine most any of us do. I hope you enjoyed the list I put together for you and I hope you agree with at least one of these TV shows being on your top 5 list of all time! Let me know!

Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories

I am totally enthralled with the Amazon Prime original series The Man in the High Castle, it’s ah-mazing and edge-of-your-seat kinda good! Seriously, check it out. But as I sit here and watch, completely enamored with what’s about to come, it dawns on me…. I have my laptop open. How can I be enthralled when the screen I’m looking at is partially blocked by another screen with a brighter contrast (*reminder to turn down my blue light now!)?

   …Technology is everywhere…

It’s there…all the time, where ever we turn. We wake up to an alarm on our smartphone or a buzz on our FitBit. We watch the morning news on our television while we surf articles on our iPad mini. We work all day behind a laptop or a desktop connected to our peers, bosses, coworkers, and friends. We drive to destinations using our GPS, we find destinations using our voices through the advent of intelligent assistants like Siri and Cortana.  Then we “veg” in front of our TV’s watching the latest episode of House of Cards and trying to beat our Angry Birds highest score on our Androids, while stalking our friends on Facebook and Instagram. Technology just isn’t in our culture…it is our culture.

So, I started looking at how I really used technology. And the above paragraph is a pretty accurate assessment. Except, I don’t play games on my smartphone (not much of a game-goer). But technology (because I work in it) is my career, without it, I could not do my job. Could any of us? But separated from work, which we all know is hard to do, how was I using technology?

Well…let’s just say I’ve let it take my life over. I’m texting my friend from WordCamp while I’m grocery shopping. I’m checking my Facebook idled at a red light, I’m looking up “where do I know that actor from?” on my iPad while I’m watching a movie. Technology consumes me…..but I see it consume a lot of people my age. Even my mother plays her puzzle games on her iPad while watching the evening news.

And that’s only one piece of the puzzle of technology in our culture…

The other piece are the feelings, the emotions, and the perceptions. People say all the time that they don’tPeople at a bar on their cellphones let technology affect them, but that’s not true at all.  I see people bogged down with technology at restaurants, too busy intrigued by what their childhood crush is doing at that very moment online to order their food and enjoy the process of eating out with real-life friends.

I hear people say (and write) on Facebook (and other social channels) that they “won’t let other people take them down” or “they aren’t going to worry about what others think of them.” Yet I’ll see from that same person they’ve written some long diatribe that counteracts their statements, and I’m not sure they realize it. Then I’ll read the comments and I’ll see that they definitely didn’t realize it. But here I am reading this rant and these comments and the feelings are all too real. Technology affects us all and in different ways.

Facebook rant image

Let’s look at the opposite end of that. Something really cool happens and we post it online. I bought a new motorcycle and instead of just going for a ride, I take pictures of it and post it on Facebook (this, I’ve actually been guilty of). Is my excitement from getting the motorcycle and the freedom you feel when you ride it? Or is it from showing it off to my online community of “friends”? Maybe both? Not sure if I’ll ever know. We take pictures, we say words to get validation or make a point. But is that point made, or that validation received? Or is that only our perception?

Technology is the vehicle for how we drive our lives and relationships forward

It’s a place we live—online, connected, available, vulnerable. It is, truly, the way most people validate their lives now—through the lens of a blue light. We celebrate our birthday’s online, our promotions at work, our child’s first step. It’s all super important online, what our friends and our peers think about these things, and how that makes us feel. But it should be about how we actually feel about these things.

But obviously, there is a flip-side to all that, as there is in life! People are sharing more than ever online, which can be a good thing depending on the contribution. We have access to information that was never possible before. People display their art, their music, their screenplay, their creativity, their passions all online. And that can be beautiful.

But as I sit here and reread these words, I realize yet another truth, that technology’s burdens to me could be someone else’s beauty….and vice versa.

So, when you’re online, do what you feel is right. Keep it in or out. Wake up to it, or not. Be connected all day or only a small fraction of the day. The reality is that there is no way around it, it’s there and will always be now. As time continues to move forward, those of us who remember what life was like without a computer will slowly fade. And our culture will forever be connected to technology.

In the words of Laurie Anderson, “technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories.”   

I wanna tell some goods ones and contribute to the culture, what do you want to tell?

The Xennials: A Micro-Generation of In-Betweeners

November 7, 2015
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So, as I’m sure some of you may have heard, or read, or seen somewhere online, be it social media, or a chain email (if you still get those), the idea of this micro-generation between Generation X and Millennials known as Xennials. I always thought this was Generation Y (my generation!), but I guess I was wrong as people believe that GenY is, in fact, the Millennial Generation. It’s believed that GenY was just an oversight, or under-sight, however you’d like to classify it is fine with me. The reality is there has been quite a bit of controversy around this subject as of late. I’ve been reading more and more articles on what peoples’ opinions are surrounding this non-existent, imagined, and underwhelmed generation. Yet, here I am, and here we are! We stand together, however far a part we may be, those of us born between 1978 and 1984, have got to be recognized. Because it is us GenY-ers, now known as Xennials, that made the transition between Generation X and Millennials possible. We are the Homo naledi that bridged the evolution of big generations together. We are, essentially, the missing piece that allows every other piece to fit nicely together in the puzzle of America’s living generations.

“And these children that spit on you, as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations – they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.” – David Bowie

Taking a look at the Living Generations…

Let’s start with a quick history lesson of the generations that are still represented in this nation right now. There is usually common ground amongst the “generation and generation gap” experts with the first four representative generations.

They are:

  1. G.I. Generation (1901-1926) – Needless to say, this generation is super old! But there are still a few left, and I would like to tip my hat to these people because, let’s face it, they’re awesome! They are considered the “Great Generation.” They fought the Great War and survived while never speaking a word about what they saw or experienced. They raised their families in the Great Depression and persevered in the face of overwhelmingly hard times.  They built an incredible infrastructure for our nation and never took credit for it. They’re loyal, honest, hard-working people, and I hope we don’t forget this generation. They deserve to be remembered, and remembered well.
  2. The Silents (or The Matures) (1927- 1945) – Considered the nation’s last innocent generation, they were a little quieter than their GI predecessors (hence silents). They didn’t make a huge splash and they didn’t have much to say. They got corporate jobs, they lived normal lives, and their dreams were that of the “true American dream” – getting married, buying a house, having kids, and retiring well. They listened to Big Band music, they read the newspaper every morning, and they were cautious people.

  3. Baby Boomer Social Security CardBaby Boomers 
    (1946-1964) Ahhh, my parents…your parents… all of our parents. The Baby Boomers boomed and, apparently, they did it in two different styles. 1). The love and peace revolutionaries of the 60’s/70’s. 2). The career-climbing Yuppies (young urban professionals) of the 70’s/80’s. I love this generation, there was so much diversity! There were hippies and hard workers. Woodstock, civil rights, and climbing the company ladder. Rock and roll was huge and non-violent protests were popping up all over the country on college campuses. They were the “me” generation and a generation of firsts. The first TV generation, the first divorce generation. They are now considered the Golden generation in the workforce, many of them close to retirement, but most of which will not retire at 65. The differing decades they’ve lived have made them incredibly wise and incredibly important.
  4. Generation X (1965-1980) – Also known as the “latchkey kids,” they were left to fend for themselves. Street smart, but closed off. Partied all night, but still got up in the morning. They were individuals, there was no “greater good,” there was only themselves. They were the forgotten ones, the ones that society left by the wayside. They did drugs in high school, cut class more than any generation and listened to the Sex Pistols, INXS, and Tears for Fears. They abhorred big business, didn’t care for the government, and at times, even hated themselves for being born. The were creative kids that gave way to real jobs, and they’ll have an average of 7 careers in their lifetime.

Now this is where it gets a little confusing…..and interesting!

According to many, the next generation is the Millennial generation, some call it “the first-wave” Millennial generation. Well, I think that’s crap! But for continuity, here are the remaining two generations:

5.  Millennials (1981-2001) – There are so many things we could call this generation – the 9/11 Generation, the Echo Boomers, the Boomerang Generation, some say GenY, others call it the MTV Generation (I disagree with these last two). They lived in an era of fast falling crime rates all over the nation. They had parents who wanted to be present and involved. They prefer to work in teams and collaborate with one another. They keep impeccable schedules, they have an overly optimistic outlook on life in a dim, no-real-prospective-opportunity reality. They get all their information from the internet. Libraries don’t exist. They sexted growing up, they had mobile phones in high school. Britney Spears was their idol, along with the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees (or is it 97 Degrees? Doesn’t matter!) They’re hopeful, they process the world as fast as they can, they’ve been told their uber special and expect something for nothing. They’re spoiled, and they don’t give a shit.


6. Boomlets (born after 2001) – I had never heard of this before, some call this generation Generation Z (cute!) or the Technology Generation. Apparently, they will change the way the American melting pot is viewed in terms of behavior and culture. Most of them will grow up with TV’s in their bedroom. They will have never known a world without computers. They will always be connected. Their status in life will be determined by how many Twitter followers they have and how many Instagram likes they acquire. Apparently, they will also be tired of hearing about “saving the planet” – known as Eco-fatigue, they won’t give a shit about recycling. This is the generation that will no longer have a childhood that’s played outside or played with toys, they won’t explore the woods and neighborhoods close to their homes. They’ll be in front of the computer and their parents will call it “learning.”


Childhood by the Lake

My Childhood:

Time for Adam to add his two cents…or three.

I have fond memories of my childhood. A time without technology and without the worries of everyday life. We played flashlight tag, and “guns & commandos” in the woods next to my house. I was able to pickup the phone and dial my friends’ numbers by rote memorization.

I remember how excited I was when my sister and I discovered we actually got MTV on our television set (and how disappointed my parents were with that discovery). I think the first video I ever watched was Runaway Train by Soul Asylum. We were the MTV Generation, we watched movies like The Breakfast Club and The Goonies 10 years after they were released and fell in love with them. We grew up with one computer, we had to use the phone to connect with the internet (dial-up). We had one TV, and we fought with each other because we all wanted to watch something different. Full-House, Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, then as we aged we watched shows like Blossom, My So-Called Life, and Dawson’s Creek. And we ate dinner as a family, but still went outside afterwards.

Talking ’bout my generation:

My generation is different, I assure you that! And we, cannot be lumped into these above buckets. I had angst as a teenager and believed in my individualism, but always knew there was the greater good. When I went to high school, cell phones where used by stock brokers, and they were enormous, I mean, seriously, they were as huge as your face and you could not fit them in your pocket. I remember I bought a beeper and thought I was the coolest kid ever! Man, did those things go outta style quick. I had a walkman, for years! And I used it, for years! I always knew technology was important, but I never really cared about it until much later in life. I have a lot of friends on Facebook, but let’s face it, I probably only keep in touch with 10 people on there. I still read books and consider them timeless gems, they will be the art of our generation and eventually become precious commodities (in fact, I’ve always wanted to write a novel about the dying breed of books, but I’m sure that’s probably been done before!). We grew up as the in-betweeners, and that’s a great place to be. The middle child, not too high, not too low. We weren’t experimented on and we weren’t held too tight. We were in the right spot at the right time and will always be able to adapt and change with the evolving tide.

For those of you who were born in between 1978 and 1984, you are the Xennials, and you will forever have the upper hand in the generational flow because you’ve lived the best of both worlds and the worst of both worlds. Stand with me now, and stake your claim, we are here to stay!

 

The Comfort-Zone Culture Facebook Breeds

December 10, 2014
Comments Off on The Comfort-Zone Culture Facebook Breeds

People flock to Facebook, right? It’s the most widely used social media platform in the world. I’m sure you’re friends with what….500 people? Me too! But the reality is – we probably only keep in touch with maybe 10 people on there. Facebook breeds this culture of people who can’t interact with one another face-to-face, which is odd because it’s called Facebook!!

For the longest time I swore I would never be on any social media platform – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. But a long while ago, I made the leap into Facebook. I thought it was really cool the way I could reach out to old friends from high school and say hello. I could know more about a co-worker, or a great aunt I met once at a family reunion. It’s an interesting medium. You have this portal into a person’s life. Facebook is like a window into people’s houses. You’re looking from the outside into a person’s life and people sit on the outside and look into your life. It’s up to what to share, how to share it, and who you can share it with. But does it really portray an accurate portrait of someone…..probably not.

Let’s face it, all of us put only the good stuff up there. Some put up the bad, like when they go through a breakup (this is the worst, don’t do this!!), but for the most part we read about someone’s kid getting on the honor’s list, or this person just landed a new job.  And people love sharing things about their pets, houses, cars, etc. People post some bizarre stuff that they find from someone else’s timeline. So really, Facebook is breeding this culture of competition, and plagiarism, and staying inside your comfort zone.

Another thing is the fact that people just friend people to have more friends. I’ve gotten friend requests from several people in my past, I accept and say hello, and nothing. Not a “hey, how’s it going?” or a “been a long time, hope all is well” – I find this sad, really sad. We have the energy to push a few buttons so that someone can get access to our versions of our own worlds, but we don’t have the energy or the decency to type a few short sentences to actually make a personal connection. It’s odd. I’ve seen a few people from the past and have reached out to see how they’ve been and no response. What’s the point of being friends with someone if you can’t say a friendly hello once in awhile?

One more thing, if you’re friends with someone on Facebook, you would think that you could go up to that person and say “hey, how are you?” – but this isn’t entirely true. People are awkward in person, they can’t talk. And I don’t get it, it’s something about having a face-to-face that makes people really uncomfortable. So, for those of you who want to continue hiding behind the skewed portrait of your life called Facebook and not come in front of the counter, then by all means, enjoy your comfort zone (that you will forever be a slave to) and just keep existing.

For those of you who actually care about personal connection and want to laugh, smile, and be in the presence of physical people, I’ll be hanging around outside that comfort zone – because that’s where people grow – beyond their comfort zones. It’s a weird thing, Facebook has brought us all closer together, but has it really brought us farther a part? I’m not sure.