Life

Of Chance and Opportunity

OutliersI’ll say it at the top: I highly recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, Outliers.

Now let me tell you why.

1) What is a true outlier? The whole book is built on the premise that successful people are successful for a reason. It could be their family ethnicity. It could be where they were raised. It could be as simple as their birthday. (About half of the current players on the Detroit Red Wings were born before April.) Gladwell uses hockey teams as the basis that using a birthday as a imaginary line to segment players virtually eliminates half of the other hockey players from getting additional training to become a superstar.

2) The same goes with education. Gladwell uses examples of how birthdays arbitrarily put students in the wrong classes and talented programs when, how, at the age of ten, how can we truly know who is bound for educational success unless they are already scoring high in the IQ charts? Last week I started a great conversation with my best friend about Gladwell’s section on education and how much we both agreed on how to solve the education problem in the United States. (He and I are pretty different politically, but on this we could agree.)

3) Are you born with it? Would Bill Gates have created Microsoft had he not had hours upon hours of free computer terminal time or a mother’s group who paid for some of that time. What if he hadn’t grown up near one of the few high schools in the country that had a terminal in that time. Same goes for certain nationalities and even being born in a certain part of the world where attitudes towards work and dedication rub off into your personality.

These three points are very generic (mostly because I want you to read the book!) but more so because I just wanted to scratch an itch. I want you to start thinking about you and your success that you’ve had or success you’re dreaming of. Gladwell doesn’t make the argument that all success is born-into, or that you can’t get it. Quite the contrary. He forces us to first look at those situations where the stars simply aligned to help others become successful (i.e. Bill Gates) and the situations where the family built the success (i.e. Jewish lawyers working in New York City at the turn of the Century); then he takes us through situations where, when given a chance, people chase after success and are willing to give up almost everything for just that chance.

Are you an outlier? Were you born with it? Do you have an astoundingly high IQ? Were you born on the right side of the tracks?

No matter what, there are opportunities out there to help you along the way, you just have to want them. You just have to chase them. In my opinion, that is what will make you an outlier. Good luck!

Oh, the Possibilities

Last Wednesday I spoke to three leadership studies classes at Olathe East High School. There were student from East, South and Indian Trail Junior High School, and while we were only together for an hour, the group is inspiring.

That’s the reason for the title of this post. Anything is Possible! (It is no coincidence that “Anything is Possible” is the title to my book scheduled to be out this fall.)

These students, 9-12 graders, are on an incredible journey to becoming teachers and lawyers, architects and doctors.

Even in you’re not in high school anymore, it s not too soon to start a journey. You just have to start it.

1) What is something you’ve wanted to do for a long time?

2) What is stopping you?

3) It’s my guess there is no real answer to question two, so get up and do it! Anything is Possible!

(Image from Pensiero via Flikr)

This. Is. It.

This. Is. It.Today I am speaking to a group of high school student leaders at Olathe Schools (Kansas). I’m excited and can’t wait to tell you about the experience (and of course post pictures!)

Today is the day!

This.

Is.

It.

What are you doing to change the world?

There it is. The tracks are empty.

What are you waiting for?

Get to it! This is your moment. Are you going to let it pass. If you have a goal – start chasing it. If you have a dream, start building it! Only you can start pushing your dream down the tracks.

The students today are in various leadership programs and are seeking to change their worlds and the world around them. Will you join them?

This. Is. It.

(photo courtesy philcampbell)

I Did It!

Photo of the Moment

2009 Trolley Run

I didn’t run the marathon yet – - but I ran my four-mile race last week! I finished with a time of 35:40, which for me is about 20 seconds faster than my usual mile split time! I was amazed and energized by the thousands of runners that were with me. I can’t wait for the next race!

This is just one of many steps in my journey to run a marathon. What are you working towards. Only you can go after it! Get to it!

Let There Be Love…

There they are, holding hands
Two souls about to become one
There is love in the air

Nothing purer
Nothing brighter
Nothing stronger
Let there be love…
Let there be love.

With smiles on their faces
And the sun beaming down
There is love in the air

Nothing purer
Nothing brighter
Nothing stronger
Let there be love…
Let there be love.

This is their love
This is their life
And love is all you need.

Nothing purer
Nothing brighter
Nothing stronger
Let there be love…
Let there be love.

*I wrote this poem/lyrics last week in honor of the start of marriage equality in Iowa.

Related Posts:
Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa!
A Challenging Tomorrow

7 Lessons From the School Bus

1) Be Friendly. My first ever ride on the bus, the bus-driver walked with me to find a riding buddy and I will always remember his name: Brandon Repp.

2) Understand the Class System. You don’t get to ride in the back until you are older. I did, but then as I got older, I made the front the place to be. It’s were all the sports talk would happen.

3) Listen to Directions. I had a few bus drivers would wouldn’t take crap from anyone. I admired that and liked when they wouldn’t put up with guff from riders.

4) Be on Time: I was only late to the bus once. But that one time taught me not to be late!

5) Sleep… or Don’t. Some people can sleep on a long bus ride, some can’t. If you can and plan on it, stay in the front. If you don’t and don’t plan on it, stay in the back.

6) Don’t Do Your Homework. You can’t read it afterwards anyway, so don’t try. It obviously wasn’t that important in the first place, so just enjoy the ride.

7) Be Thankful. I always tried to thank my driver, especially on sports trips. Giving thanks is a powerful gift it costs nothing to give.

Management Lessons from McJayGate

A lot has been written over the last seven weeks about the feud between the Denver Broncos and the Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler. The feud finally ended last Thursday when the Broncos traded Cutler to the Bears for three draft picks and one of their own. This isn’t an analysis of whose fault this affair was or who got the better end of the trade.

What this is about rather is what can be learned from a management and employee standpoint. These lessons don’t just work in football or professional sports. They work in the non-profits and the boardroom.

First from the side of the employee:
You Serve at the Pleasure of Your Employer:
You work for someone. In the NBC drama, West Wing, the staff of the president were heard in numerous episodes saying, “I serve at the pleasure of the president.” The same thing goes in any situation where you are the employee. Your work, your personality, your knowledge and your attitude are being paid for. When your services are deemed expendable, sometimes its simply because of money, other times its because an employer sees a chance to improve the team.

Be Open to Change:
The day Josh McDaniels was hired at the Broncos new coach, Jay Cutler was unhappy. But over time, he began to grow to be excited about the change and what McDaniels could bring. Its absolutely imperative for any employee to be open to change. Change is just that: a chance to try new things, learn new practices and grow as a person.

Don’t Play Hard to Get:
Unless you’re Michael Jordan (in his prime), or quite simply the world’s smartest person, you are expendable. Be willing to talk and figure out problems. This is obviously easier said than done because we all have pride and won’t want to come to the table with our rails between our legs. That said, if the employer wants to talk to you, talk!

Now from the management standpoint:
Don’t Lie:
If there is a chance the employee will keep working for you, don’t lie to them. Trust is hard to rebuild and sometimes impossible so why make it harder by lying. This is of course true to both sides, but for employers, if you like the employee, don’t lie to them.

Do What Best for the Team:
This not only means finding better talent, but also, if there is a chance you’re going to have an employee that is unhappy, you have to make the effort to fix that. You’re the boss. Moral is your job. One bad seed can ruin a team.

Don’t Play Hard to Get:
If you’re playing hard to get with someone you want, you’re going to get burned. If you want them, show them and it can go a long way to building up trust in the relationship. Trust is invaluable in the employer/employee relationship.

No matter what, it is vitally important that both sides have an understanding of the relationship and works every day to build it and make it stronger. This is done through communication, evaluation and constant growth.

Donor Sibling Registry Supports New Families

As more and more children are conceived through artificial insemination, more and more teenagers are beginning to wonder about the possibility of additional family. Back in September 2000, Wendy Kramer and her son Ryan began to seek out information to see if Ryan had any half-siblings.

“It all began when my son was curious if he had any half-siblings and sadly we found there were no organizations to help with the search,” Kramer said. Kramer found that there was no central agency that was built to assist families and individuals find their biological counterparts.

Since then, Kramer has helped over 6,100 half-siblings (and/or donors) connect with each other through the help of the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR), which the Kramer family founded. The worldwide organization, based out of Boulder, Colo., helps families and siblings connect with each other when there is a mutual interest.

Kramer was always open with her son about his birth and she continues to be a huge proponent of a child’s right to know. “At DSR we support a child’s curiosity because while it may not be important to the parent, we really need to honor the child’s need to know,” Kramer said.

Another factor in the disclosure process is understanding that some parents haven’t been open with their children, and Kramer’s son Ryan had that very experience.

He’d found a half-sibling, but the mother of his half-sister hadn’t told her daughter and wasn’t planning on it. It can be a very emotional and trying experience, Kramer says. It’s one of the struggles of having donor siblings.

Other struggles include the non-biological parent feeling left out since there is no biological connection with the child, especially when they are meeting other blood relatives. A local Kansas City couple, Tracy and Emily Lawler-White recently had a baby through donor insemination. The process of finding a donor and becoming pregnant was smooth and easy, they said. The couple, who have been together for 11 years are enjoying life with their first child and are learning about DSR now, so when the times comes to talk with Jonas, their newborn, they are ready.

“Our doctors didn’t talk about a sibling registry,” Tracy said. “But we stumbled across it and now we’re members of the Yahoo group and are just enjoying learning about the process.”

While the couple doesn’t have a need at Jonas’ young age to search out siblings, they are following the stories of similar families, and learning how to build up trust and honesty with a donor-inseminated child at a young age.

Emily came from a large family and didn’t see the need to know about Jonas’ half-siblings, but through the group, she understands why children may want to know about their relatives. “It has helped me to understand what Jonas’ perception might be and what will happen as he gets older,” Emily said.

While there are a lot of concerns parents have when it comes to extending their families, there is something unique and rewarding seeing a child connect with a sibling.

“They share personal experiences, issues they’ve had, their challenges and their joys,” Kramer said. “It was absolutely worth it.”

There are many groups to help a family learn and decide what is best for them. You can connect with the Donor Sibling Registry at http://www.donorsiblingregistry.com.

In addition to the DSR organization, there is a local group in Kansas City, the Midwest Alternative Family Alliance (http://www.kcmafa.org), which is a collection of local gay and lesbian parents and prospective parents that offer a voice, support and a way to connect with each other.

This article appeared recently in Liberty Press.

What is Creativity for?

Ahhh… the question tearing at the heart and soul of many an organization these days. For many companies, this downturn (of which I am still refusing to participate) has caused many companies to change their plans, reduce spending and go back to what they know works. It’s not really a bad strategy.

When a sports team is losing a game, oftentimes the coaches and players go back to the basics and what the team does best. Its a sound strategy with proven results. However, doing the same thing over and over only gets the same result, even if it is a positive one.

If your organizational metrics are solid then why be more creative? If your ROI is high why rock the boat? If your book sells with average words why strive to use different style elements.

You have to be creative for three main reasons:

1) It can help change your perspective. When your perspective changes, you’re able to find new ideas, fresh ways to express the same idea.

2) Being creative can open a whole new world to ideas, customers, innovations, thinking… you name it, opening the doors of creativity and the possibilities are endless.

3) You have to push yourself. You need to push yourself in everything you do to be creative, to try something new. It’s these experiences of letting your guard down where your soul and your passions can really come out.

It’s an amazing thing when you see your creativity flow. Good luck to you!