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Golden Oldies: Pity for a Generation

Monday, March 6th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

In the three years since I wrote this the situation hasn’t improved — in fact it’s gotten much worse. Worse because it encompasses what seems like the majority of people from every country around the globe and all ages.

Something else happened during those three years — mental health practitioners recognized the addictive qualities of social media and formalized several conditions, such as FOMO (fear of missing out).

As with any addiction there are two sides, addicts and suppliers. Join me tomorrow for a look at the supply side.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicubunuphotos/5925119201/

I feel sorry for the current generation and all those who’ve bought into their ethos.

Everywhere I go I see them; eyes locked on a tiny screen desperately seeking the latest indication that they fit in; that they are accepted; that they are liked.

But what they find on that screen is an illusion; one that leads them away from the real connections all humans crave.

Studies show that American college students spend, on average, three hours texting and an hour and 40 minutes on Facebook every day. One of the more recent studies centers on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale: Norwegian researchers have observed that excessive Facebook use leads to higher rates of anxiety and social insecurity.

The proof is in what happens when they’re in public and you take that screen away.

“I gathered my things and bolted out the door,” one student wrote about her reaction once she finished her meal. “I was glad that I could feel like I belong somewhere again. . . . What I hated most was being alone and feeling like I was being judged for it.” Another student echoed this experience. “By not having my phone or laptop to hide behind, it was amazing how self-conscious I felt.”

How sad is that?

In short, no screen equals no confidence

“I realized something disturbing after doing this. If I don’t feel connected with others, I automatically feel alone, unpopular, less confident.”

The feedback of online connections may provide instant gratification, but that’s cold comfort when what you’re longing for is warmth, intimacy and a hug.

Flickr image credit: nicubunu.photo

Light Phone: The Tech Solution For A Tech-Created Problem

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

LightPhoneFloatingHIGHI, along with many others, have written about the need for mindfulness, the importance of quiet and the dangers of distraction and FOMO.  

Joe Hollier and Kai Tang sum it up nicely.

Solitude and boredom are essential to creativity or producing any sort of serious work. We are becoming scared of boredom, scared of solitude, scared of conversations with ourself.

They also believe in the value of boredom.

Capacity for boredom is at the root of observation. Observation inspires science, art, change, and opportunity. Have we become afraid of our inner lives? I think that we will find ourselves much happier when we are able to look forward to boredom, and to actually aspire for it, instead of being afraid of it.

But apparently there’s actually a market for a solution to providing the first two and reducing the dangers of the third.

A market to combat tech’s intentional effort to addict.

Being entrepreneurs, Hollier and Tang are going after that market, with a ‘back to the future’ solution.

It’s called the Light Phone and its tagline is “your phone away from phone.”

It’s beautiful, sexy and only makes calls.

And at only $150 it’s an affordable way to reenter the real world, rejoin the humane (not a typo) race and create the world in which you want to live.

Image credit: Light Phone

Entrepreneurs: Tien Tzuo on Learning from Marc Benioff

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/howardlake/9289616655/Founders have a new, or should I say, back to the future, attitude regarding the success of their companies.

It can be summed up in one word: revenue.

While there are great examples and plenty of advice on generating revenue, as opposed to just growing users, I think these four lessons that Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, the eleventh hire at Salesforce.Com and its first CMO, learned from Marc Benioff are worth keeping front and center in your mind (details are at the link.).

  • Pitching is Listening.
  • Run towards big ideas, not away.
  • Never lose sight of your first principles.
  • Tear Up the Master Plan.

Based on my experience, founders, especially younger founders, will have the most trouble with the first and the third in the list.

Pitching is Listening: whether driven by passion, nervousness or fear, most founders want to push their vision, their product, their ideas to potential customers.

Marc is always testing his ideas, testing his strategy, testing his vision.  Marc is always in a mindset to listen, to observe, to understand, and it’s this discipline that allows him to always be in touch with the marketplace. It’s easy for people in his position to get disconnected and fall prey to myopic thinking.

Never lose sight of your first principles: it takes thought and a solid knowledge of oneself to identify core principles. Unfortunately, taking the time and spending the energy on such an ostensibly esoteric goal seems to happen less and less these days.

Try searching “invest in yourself” and you’ll find that most talk about adding skills, exploring/developing your creativity and maximizing physical and mental health.

That’s all good, but if you truly want to invest in yourself then set aside time to know yourself, i.e., your values and basic principles; the intangibles that make you you.

Image credit: Howard Lake

Golden Oldies: The Screen that Kills Connection, Friendship and Empathy

Monday, October 17th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back at more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

A couple of years ago I cited research that showed how the vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and that, like muscles, it needs exercise to stay strong; screen time weakens that connection. I also predicted that the research would fall on deaf ears if it fell at all. Sometimes I hate when I’m right, so here it is again. Read it carefully, share it with all your friends and then plan your own vagus exercise routine.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitpedia/4882197805People’s preoccupation with their screens has been blamed for many things and if you’ve been around someone who kept sneaking peeks while talking you know how annoying that is.

But did you know it messes up not only your brain, but also your capacity for connection, friendship, empathy, as well as your actual physical health?

Texting even messes up your infant’s future!

New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions — like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child — leave life-limiting fingerprints on their and their children’s gene expression.

It’s not just a case of being distracted.

Your vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and how you handle your social connections affects the vagal tone, which, like muscle tone, can improve with exercise and that, in turn, increases the capacity for connection, friendship and empathy.

In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people. Your heart’s capacity for friendship also obeys the biological law of “use it or lose it.” If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so.

Do I think this research will actually make a difference in people’s actions?

No!

Even if the information becomes widespread I don’t think people would give up the instant gratification of being mentioned or conquer their FOMO and focus instead on quality face time.

It doesn’t seem a big deal right now, but look into the future at a world that doesn’t just lack connection and empathy, but is filled with people who aren’t even capable of it.

I’m glad I won’t be around.

One last item; a short essay that says better than I have in the past exactly why I don’t carry a cell phone. Enjoy!

Flickr image credit: Digitpedia Com

Miki’s Rules to Live by: A Quick Reminder

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

You may find this surprising, but the phones you texted to arrange getting together for dinner are not sentient.

In reality, they are the property of sentient beings whose face2face company you enjoy (or did at one time).

Since you planned a meal with them, I’ll assume you still do and suggest you follow the advice below.

no wifi 46716

Buon appetito or, if you prefer, bon apetite.

Image credit: Anonymous email

If the Shoe Fits: A Useful Personal Assistance Startup

Friday, July 8th, 2016

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

Watching all the startups that eliminate so many of the day-to-day chores of living.

They supposedly free people up to do amazing stuff.

Uh-huh.

However, one startup, Guiding Hands, does more than handle mundane chores; it actually mitigates dangers and difficulties for peripheral non-users.

Thanks to Conan and TBS for introducing Guiding Hands to the world.

(And a hat tip to my friend Tom for sending it to me.)

Mark Benioff’s Solution to Information Overload

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/5310317688/Everyone complains about information overload.

Playwright Richard Forman has a term for it.

“Pancake people – spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button”.

Psychologist and behavioral neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, author of the upcoming book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, recommends retraining your brain.

“Our brains are equipped to deal with the world the way it was many thousands of years ago when we were hunter-gatherers. Back then the amount of information that was coming at us was much less and it came at us much more slowly.”

But Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff has a much simpler solution.

“I deleted my Facebook account completely. I found it was just overwhelming me. I’m only on Twitter, I’m on SalesforceOne, which is my internal one for work, I’m on email, and that’s it. And I’m limited to that. I’m trying not to take on more stuff. I was with a friend this weekend, he’s got his Twitter, his Facebook, he has his Snapchat, he’s got all these – too much.”

Of course, part of the overload is work-related, but it’s amazing how much is pure trivia driven by FoMO and/or the need to impress by sounding knowledgeable about a twist in Game of Thrones.

You are the only person who can evaluate just how necessary your various information streams are sooner rather than later.

Because even the smallest stream adds to the river in which it is oh, so easy to drown.

Then you need gather your courage, follow Benioff’s lead and shut down the unnecessary streams.

Your sanity will thank you.

Flickr image credit: Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter

Ducks in a Row: Millennials (and Everybody) Need Quiet

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/izzie_whizzie/2146972746/

If you’re old enough, like me, you remember when open offices for knowledge workers/professionals, i.e., cubicles, happened.

I dodged that bullet in 1980 when my company moved into new space and I got a private office, but only because of my hearing.

In those days, recruiters spent the day on the phone and, even with an amplifier, I needed quiet to hear my clients and candidates.

Everybody complained; nobody liked the bullpen/open office concept. It did not increase productivity.

Originally, the idea that noise equals energy was sold by restaurant designers.

Trendy places started using smaller tables and packing them more closely together. They eliminated sound absorbing items, such as carpeting, and adding more hard surfaces and louder music, which forced customers to talk louder, thus upping the decibel level even more.

The myth that eliminating walls boosted collaboration and creativity was sold by consultants, architects and office designers and eagerly bought into by management, primarily because it saved money — it’s a lot cheaper to build out no-wall office space.

And it became almost holy writ when discussing Millennials.

But a new survey from Oxford Economics, an analysis firm spun out of Oxford University’s business college, proves that’s not the case. Rather than fancy perks and giveaways, most respondents want quiet.

More than half of the employees complained about noise. The researchers found that Millennials were especially likely to voice concern about rising decibels, and to wear headphones to drown out the sound or leave their desks in search of quieter corners. Among the supervisors, 69 percent reported that their spaces had been laid out with noise reduction in mind; 64 percent had engineered the workplace to mute noise intruding from outside of the office, too.

It takes quite to think, to create, to dream.

Neither today’s world nor workplace lend themselves to quiet.

That may change if workers become vocal enough with their demands.

And vocal is something at which Millennials excel.

Flickr image credit: Elizabeth Ellis

Ducks in a Row: The Reward of Personal Deep Time

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/juditk/3426651261/

I read a wonderful essay by artist Rachel Sussman and two paragraphs especially resonated.

After all, meaning is not made of lone facts, lone people, or lone disciplines, nor is it found in the valuing of the objective over the subjective. Rather, meaning comes by way of knitting together a bigger picture, filled with color and texture, and meant to be felt and understood. We most fully understand what we can internalize—that which becomes part of us. The importance of specializing can’t be discarded, but working only within one discipline and strictly adhering to its rules is likely only to generate one kind of work, one kind of result. (…)

Deep time is like deep water: We are constantly brought back to the surface, pulled by the wants and needs of the moment. But like exercising any sort of muscle, the more we access deep time, the more easily accessible it becomes, and the more likely we are to engage in long-term thinking. The more we embrace long-term thinking, the more ethical our decision-making becomes.

Her concept of deep time connected in my mind to HBS’ Jim Heskett’s discussion of deep thinking years ago — especially the comments. (Both are well worth reading.)

Do you notice the connection?

Both embrace silence sans distractions.

What happens when you shut off and shut out the noise of the modern world?

First comes fear; fear of the unknown that is yourself.

The fear fades as self-knowledge grows.

As it fades you see a spark; a spark that grows until it is a steady fire fueled by your own creativity.

A fire that warms you and from which you draw inspiration and ideas.

And, over the course of your life’s short version of deep time, wisdom.

Flickr image credit: Judit Klein

If the Shoe Fits: The Need to Reflect

Friday, March 18th, 2016

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mStartup life, especially for founders, is notoriously fast-paced, with thinking time devoted to product development, funding, growth, funding, user acquisition, funding, hiring, funding, etc.

Add to that the need/desire to interact with family and friends, compulsion to keep up with social media and daily chores, such as eating, sleeping, bathing, etc. and many will say that carving out time for quiet reflection is a nonstarter.

That said, no thinking entrepreneur questions the enormous value of attending Steve Blanks annual Lean LaunchPad class — since it offers far more than any accelerator.

It’s the difference between buying fish and learning to fish — the latter provides a lifetime of value, while the former is short-lived.

Blank and his cohorts added a week to the course this year and the reason is of paramount importance — even to those not in the startup world.

This year we made a small but substantive addition to way we teach the class, adding a week for reflection. The results have made the class massively better. (…)

We realized that we had been so focused in packing content and work into the class, we failed to give the students time to step back and think about what they actually learned.

So this year we made a change. We turned the next to last week of the class into a reflection week.  Our goal—to have the students extract the insights and meaning from the work they had done in the previous seven weeks.

Reflection — (in this context) a fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration

Back in 2011William W. George, Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, found that making time for self-reflection was critical for anyone aspiring to a leadership role.

Before anyone takes on a leadership role, they should ask themselves, “Why do I want to lead?” and “What’s the purpose of my leadership?”

The kind of thinking/reflecting recommended by both Blank and George can’t be done while scanning email, texting, listening to music or any of the myriad of distractions that constantly bombard you.

You need to set aside the time, turn off your devices and give yourself time to reflect and even do some deep thinking.

You and your organization will both benefit.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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