Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tis the season...

For long lines at any department store, short tempers, great food and relatives that remind us why we only ever see each other once a year. :)

This is also the season for ridiculous sales on the things we "want" rather than need, food that we should avoid that gets eaten anyway, and the search for that perfect gift for the person or people you cherish most. In short, this season is a mix of the most vivid emotions ranging from Love to hate and all possible variance in between, and all of it gets packed into a few weeks of the year.

In speaking with a dear friend the other day, who just so happens to be a psychiatrist (and no, I wasn't paying him for his time :) ), we fell into a conversation about the season and how it affects us, and can affect the outlook and our inter-familial conversations for years to come. I consider him a wise man, but we disagree often on some things. In this case, we disagreed that it was a healthy overall experience for a person to 'put up with' certain behaviors from family members during this time of celebration and reflection. His perspective is that it helps the individual grow mentally, while I believe it teaches a dangerous method of allowing bad behavior to continue to exist in otherwise sane (loosely translated) family members.

As is our custom around this time of year, we argued (more of a friendly debate) about the differences in our experience and, therefore, our perception of how these events affect an individual. As a child, there was nothing I loved more in my life than going to visit my grandparents on their farm in Alabama for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The trips were the highlight of my year. As a result, I argue that my foundation in solid family environments has allowed me to see both proper and improper interaction between members of the family, and I vividly remember my grandmother and her correction of bad behavior during this time.

My friend's family had much the same, but with a slightly different result. There were members of his extended family that regularly engaged in disruptive and disrespectful behavior during the gatherings, and their contribution went uncorrected. He was confident that seeing this behavior allowed him to see what not to do around family and, while I agree on principle, I think it was his upbringing around individuals that acted properly that allowed him to know the difference. :)

The moral of this story, if there is one, is that you can disagree on behavior, belief, style of dress... but enacted bad behavior that goes uncorrected only allows that person to believe that the behavior is accepted by those around them. On this we both agree.

So, when I am out during this season of mostly selfless giving and I see someone behaving badly within my realm of influence, I make it a point to correct them as gently as possible. After all, I am no expert in relations. I simply know what I am willing to allow myself to encounter as well as in what way I personally expect to be treated. There is a threshold for the way I allow myself to be addressed, treated or respected below which I allow none to pass without some form of intervention on my part. In the past, some people saw this to be some sort of unnatural requirement on my part. I see it as not allowing yourself to receive less respect than you deserve. I wish for the same for all of you.

With that, we come to my real reason for this post. :)

Jono Bacon has created something that I think is long overdue:

It is a site that should help us understand that respect is not just something you give another, it is something you can earn and set for yourself. Now Jono's site is meant and geared more for software development, but I think this should be the model for mortals the world over regardless of your particular job, race, belief structure or affiliation. It is a great thing to see the self worth of an individual increase when they are shown proper respect. It is something I think has been sorely lacking in this world for too long.

Have a look there, take for yourself those ideals and set your threshold for what you are willing to accept. Be true to yourselves. Let none take advantage of your self worth. Love your family, but let them know that there are limits to what you will allow. In this, each of us has an opportunity to grow. Be as respectful to others as you want them to respect you. To each of you, my friends, I offer a hug. To those who don't hug, a hearty handshake is my gift, and to those who don't like to shake hands, have some pie! :-)

Happy Holidays!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Advice, and the people who give/take it.

I realized today that, while I was giving advice to a friend, the advice I was giving was something that I myself needed to heed. Thinking back on all of the times I have provided my opinion or some piece of, hopefully useful, advice; I realized that, in many of those occasions, the advice I gave wasn't something that I adhered to in my own life. In those cases where I did abide my own, in almost all of those case I was now not keeping to that standard. It actually made me quite sad.

They say the hardest lessons are the ones you visit on yourself. Well, this was a tough pill to swallow for me. I like to think I have given good advice, but given my past history of not following through on it myself, I begin to wonder. A big moment for me was while listening to the clip from Cool Hand Luke that I am using in a jingle for the podcast that Amber Graner and I are discussing the resurrection of. "What we've got here is... failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach." Clearly, in this case, I was the person who couldn't be reached even though the teacher was the same person.

It brought into sharp relief those times that people tell us they understand something and then continue life in the same manner as before. Understanding does not indicate acceptance of a set of circumstances, nor does it indicate a willingness to work toward whatever goal is a result of the idea or advice. It seems I will have to pay closer attention to myself before I am comfortable giving advice to anyone else. How can I consider it sound if I am not willing to take it?


Friday, December 3, 2010

The Box... I haz it!!

Folks who know me are quite aware that I am an odd thinker. It should, then, come as no surprise to you that I like thinking 'outside the box'. I've never liked boxes. I remember making a maze in my middle school lunchroom for Halloween lamenting the fact that I didn't have sturdier construction material to make the maze the way I wanted to. I didn't like them then, I don't like them now. Even as a child I despised the boxes that things I bought came in. Now as an adult, I feel like the boxes are wasteful and take up too much space.

I am a believer in not only thinking outside the box but in destroying the box and using its pieces to build a better box to think outside of. My thinking is akin to sitting on a porch in the south on a summer day smoking a cigar. Surprisingly enjoyable in and of itself, but also able to be improved by the qualities of the porch I am sitting on. If it has a roof, I am shielded from the sun. By the same token, if it is enclosed with screen, I don't have to worry about bugs.

If I own this porch I can do anything I want with it to include completely enclosing it and using it in the winter. The details aren't important. What is important is that it becomes more esthetically pleasing the more work I put into it and more people are likely going to be interested in visiting and sitting on my porch.

I think the same is true of thought processes. A person who has a proven ability to create unexpected ideas from a bit of conversation will have more people interested in discussing their ideas with them. This person, for lack of a better term, is constantly refining their box. After all, who doesn't want to go outside their home every now and again and see what needs sprucing up or changing. If you can interest people in your box, you can show them the beauty that lies outside of your box. This is what makes disruptive technology so interesting to us. We see proven leaders in their fields and we then see them creating such unique and new ideas that we want to work with them. We want to be a part of and learn how to improve out thinking in such a way as to develop ourselves more fully into free thinkers. It is definitely one of the main reasons I wanted to work at Canonical. Nothing could be more beautiful than learning and growing every day. This is my wish for all of you in the next years. Continue to grow your minds. Don't let your box fall apart without first having a plan to rebuild bigger and better. Above all, get out there in the sunshine and create!