Mar 16, 2013 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Develop a Backbone, Not a Wishbone

Judge Philip B. Gilliam of Denver, Colorado, wrote a message to teenagers that’s making the rounds, and I think it’s worth repeating. Judge Gilliam was a highly respected judge in the Denver Juvenile Court and Juvenile Hall from 1940 until his death in 1975. During his time on the bench, he spent his time protecting children and ensuring their proper treatment in the court system.

I think it applies to more than just teen-agers. It’s just good advice.

Judge Gilliam’s letter appeared as follows.

Open letter to Teen-ager

Always we hear the plaintive cry of the teen-ager. What can we do?…Where can we go?

The answer is GO HOME!

Hang the storm windows, paint the woodwork. Rake the leaves, mow the lawn, shovel the walk. Wash the car, learn to cook, scrub some floors. Repair the sink, build a boat, get a job.

Help the minister, priest, or rabbi, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army. Visit the sick, assist the poor, study your lessons. And then when you are through – and not too tired – read a book.

Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your city or village does not owe you recreational facilities.

The world does not owe you a living…You owe the world something.

You owe it your time and your energy and your talents so that no one will be at war or in poverty or sick or lonely again.

Grow up; quit being a crybaby. Get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone, and start acting like a man or a lady.

You’re supposed to be mature enough to accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years.

They have nursed, protected, helped, appealed, begged, excused, tolerated and denied themselves needed comforts so that you could have every benefit. This they have done gladly, for you are their dearest treasure.

But now, you have no right to expect them to bow to every whim and fancy just because selfish ego instead of common sense dominates your personality, thinking and request.

In Heaven’s name, grow up and go home!

– South Bend Tribune, Sunday, Dec. 6, 1959.

Feb 12, 2013 - Leadership    No Comments

Leadership and Solitude

Solitude and leadership seem like conflicting concepts. If you are alone, how can you lead others? But times of solitude allow for the development of traits required for leaders…traits that can be lost in a sea of noise, multi-tasking, and Twitter feeds.

Former Yale professor William Deresiwicz spoke at West Point in 2009, and his lecture made the internet rounds. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do: Deresiwicz argues that without solitude, leaders struggle to think independently, and without original and authentic thought, can’t develop the moral courage to act effectively.

Leadership requires vision. Without the ability to find new directions, we maintain the conventional wisdom, and repeat what has been done before. That’s not necessarily bad, but it eliminates the possibility of radical, transformative change and original solutions to challenges. In order to develop that vision, leaders must think for themselves—which means introspection, concentration, and sustained reading—without television, music, social media, technology, or other distractions.

Looking down at your cell phone is a barrier to command presence.

All of these stimuli flood us with other people’s thoughts, not our own. When asked your opinion on a topic, do you actually spend time thinking about the issue or do you run to Google to find out what other people think? I’ve certainly been guilty of that. Deresiwicz says that leaders rarely find the answers to the questions they face on Facebook, but through introspection and concentrated, focused thinking—without distractions.

Sep 5, 2012 - Leadership    No Comments

10 Critical Reasons Why You Should Not Be Productive

I loved this article by BARRIE DAVENPORT at

Do you have a list?

I bet you do, even if it’s not written down.

You probably have your list of immediate work things that must be done and your list of big picture work things you want to do — when you have time.

Then there’s your list of regular tasks at home, your list of appointments to schedule, your list of regularly occurring maintenance tasks for yourself, your home, your car, etc. There’s the list of things you’ve promised your kids, your spouse, your neighbor, your church, and your parents.

Some of you probably have a list of long-term goals, bucket lists, financial goals, and career plans.

Crossing things off these lists feels good. It forces us to acknowledge our actions and successes. It makes us feel productive and worthy.

There’s nothing wrong with goals or lists or plans — unless they begin to define you. If productivity becomes the measure of your happiness and success, you have missed the forest for the trees.

You have failed at savoring the one true reality in the universe: the present moment.

Americans in particular have this thing for productivity. We like to squish and mush as much activity and accomplishment in a day as we possibly can. In fact, many of us (maybe you) feel guilty if you’ve had a day that doesn’t feel productive, that doesn’t meet your standards of fruitfulness.

Americans work longer hours than just about any other country in the world. We like to take our work with us on vacations and holidays. We like to fill our time with productive stuff.

In fact, in spite of some improvements, there are still plenty of organizations that make pregnant women suffer for taking time off to have a baby, and expect ridiculously long hours even though “productivity” hits a wall. There are bosses who give us the hairy eyeball if we must leave early to tend to an emergency or personal situation.

Productivity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s far too easy for productivity to morph into an adrenaline-fueled lifestyle that propels us like a pinball from one task to the next, with little time to appreciate or enjoy what we are doing — much less time to do what we truly enjoy.

A little mind shift is in order here — a little shift away from productivity and toward creativity. Here’s what I mean:

  • Rather than asking, “What do I need to accomplish today?” ask “What am I going to create today?”
  • Rather than saying, “Look at everything on my list,” ask yourself, “What can I remove from my list to give me more time to create?”
  • Rather than groaning, “I dread this crappy task before me,” ask “How can I create this task in a way that feels joyful, creative, and giving?”
  • Rather than looking for ways to manage time so you can fill it with more, look for ways to engage in what you are doing right now so that time becomes elastic and you can do less.

When you shift from a life of production to a life of creation, every moment becomes a your own work of art. You are no longer responding, racing, cramming. You are designing, solving, serving. You are fully in the moment, because the act of creating requires your full attention, right here, right now.

Being productive isn’t all bad. It certainly has its place. You do have to operate in the world of linear time and according to the schedules of other people. You have to tend to the practical tasks of living if you don’t want to be fired, arrested, or divorced. But a productivity mindset does not have to be your way of life.

Here are some solid reasons why you should not be productive in the traditional sense of the word:

1. Productivity forces your attention on outcomes rather than process. When we have a list of things that must be accomplished in a given time, we tend to focus on reaching the desired goal rather than enjoying the steps to get there. Deadlines and time-frames are sometimes necessary, but rather than procrastinating or over-scheduling yourself, give yourself enough time and space to enjoy the details of what you are doing each step of the way.

2. Productivity feeds adrenaline. When our lives are highly-scheduled and outcome focused, we are fueled by adrenaline which becomes addictive. There is a certain “high” that comes from a high-intensity, production-oriented way of life.  We feel powerful and in control. But eventually, this takes an emotional and mental toll on us which can manifest in illness, anxiety, and overwhelm.

3. Productivity reduces productivity. Huh? This sounds strange, but in reality we are the most productive when we are the most creative. You can spin your wheels with tasks and to-do lists and have very little to show for it. With a focus on creation in the moment, you are fed by the natural energy that is afforded you when you are happy in what you are doing. This makes accomplishment flow easily, without resistance or difficulty. You can do more in less time.

4. Productivity can kill focus. When you are trying to be productive and accomplish more tasks in less time, often you are in a constant state of distraction. Your focus is frequently in the future on the next task that must be completed rather than the task at hand.Yes, there are some people who get highly-focused when under a deadline or extremely scheduled, but that’s the exception.

5. Productivity confuses our priorities. As we work to be productive, our eyes are on the prize of accomplishment. But sometimes the prize isn’t what we want after all. Productivity leaves us little time to step back and consider what is most important and valuable to us. There will always be a never-ending list of tasks and projects. But are you creating the projects that are most fulfilling and rewarding for you?Are you giving equal weight and time to non-important actions?

6. Productivity overwhelms creativity. Creativity needs wide, open spaces, a relaxed state of mind, few distractions without feelings of “should” or “must.” Creativity requires a mind that is receptive, open, and free to focus. In a productive state, we must keep one foot moving in front of the other at all times. We can’t stop to smell the roses or dream bold dreams.

7. Productivity creates a false sense of control. When we have dotted every i, crossed every t, and check off everything on our lists, we have a feeling of control and order over our world. But in truth, that control is an illusion. Chaos and disorder are always around the corner and can throw us off our well-planned track without warning. When our happiness is tied to keeping ourselves on the productive track, unexpected chaos can truly rock our worlds.

8. Productivity undermines relationships. When we are busy being productive, it is hard to have time for our relationships. Most people will say that their relationships are the most important thing in the world, yet they spend very little time tending to them. We become so caught up in the productivity cycle that we ignore or take for granted our loved ones who so need our personal interaction.

9. Productivity saps spontaneity. When you are immersed in a productivity mindset, it is nearly impossible to be spontaneous and unplanned. You are on a mission to complete your scheduled actions, and something unexpected, no matter how engaging or creative, will appear as an unwelcome disruption.

10. Productivity is the “hobgoblin of little minds.” Like any foolish consistency, it can keep us stuck on one plane of understanding, enlightenment, knowledge, and insight. Stepping away from productivity and toward creativity shifts our minds to the next level, helping us grow as individuals, professionals, and members of the human race.

Productivity and creativity can work together harmoniously. The trick is not getting caught in the cyclone of unnecessary activity created by a productive-oriented mindset — then leaving space for focus without distraction or urgency. Creative thought will blossom in this space, and creative thought almost always leads to productive creation.