Tuesday, October 21, 2008

So what's in a poll number?

Ironically, the national election have focused attention on "where does McCain stand now?" for purposes of polling. Everyone seems to have a poll, and they don't all agree. This begs the question - "Why do the polls differ?"

I assume most of these polls are done honestly and are not falsifying their numbers. If that is the case (assume that with me for now), then why do the polls differ? Although there is always issues of sampling (who is being asked), the biggest difference is what is the general pool being sampled - "likely voters" or "registered voters." In many elections only a small percentage of registered voters do vote, so these groups are not always the same, and often those elegible to vote were not registered. Does that hold true in such times for such an election?

As with the primaries, massive voter registration has occurred since 2004 or even the 2006 mid-terms, and many of these new voters are non-traditional voters, either disaffected voters in past cycles such as minorities or new voters such as young people. We, frankly, don't know if they will show up to the polls and actually vote. However, based upon their activity in the 08 primaries, their willingness to engage now is likely. However, my guess is that their participation is discounted by some polls as "unlikely voters" and therefore are not polled fully.

Even among polls that seek to include them, many of these people may be less able to be polled. For young people who list only cell phones, since that is all they use, they might not be fully captured. Likewise, for other disaffected voters, they might not be home to be polled, since some of these people may be holding down multiple jobs and are not at home at times when they can be polled. If this is true, then the polls may naturally favor more conservative voters, with more conservative and stable lives.

Traditionally, these same factors also affected the unlikely voters from actually voting or even registering. However, with so many states using early voting as a tool, the inability to get to the voting booth on the First Tuesday in November might not prevent them from voting now. The only question would be - do these voters make it a priority, did they register, and will they vote?

My guess is that they did, they did and they will!! Some of the polls are also making this assumption and this may demonstrate why some of the polls show as much as a 10% lead for Obama. But at the end of the day, all registered voters have to remember that ... truly, every vote counts. If you want to complain about the country, then put up or shut up - and make sure to vote

I think we will see a record turnout that exceeds even the primary totals. Hopefully voting districts are preparing for the "storm" so that the votes can be captured correctly!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Evolution of American Concerns!

Part of connecting to people is knowing what concerns them - knowing where their anxieties lie! The ironic thing about the U.S. is that there has been a fundamental shift in the last year away from focus of many Americans on the Iraq War and our national security, to concern about the economics of this country. This occurred first because of the mortgage crisis and second because of energy prices, and their impact on food and seemingly all other prices.

Today, it seems like a distant memory when most Americans were concerned most about whether the "Surge" would work or not, whether Iraq would continue to spiral down, - for those times now do seem many years past. The time now is measured instead by the moments when we have to fill up our tank, buy groceries, pay some new surcharge or fee - all which are required to cover the energy crisis we now find ourselves. This is the new economic reality inescapable for the bottom 95% of Americans. However, this change in the American concerns struck me only recently while watching Lifetime's Army Wives. I realized that the concerns of last summer when the show was first aired really do seem so far away - when the show's cliffhanger involved a possible terrorist attack on the post.

However, then it got me thinking. In WWII, the economics at home were far worse than they are now - when "Victory Gardens" were the way of most households had to deal with severe food and energy shortages. These were also the way that average Americans made their impact for the "War Effort!" Our ancestors worked as a country through the problems of WWII and the residual issues of the Great Depression with much more vigor than we seem to work now. The reality is that we still have airmen/women, soldiers, sailors and marines in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to failed policies of the current Administration, we also are less secure in the world, with more enemies and fewer allies. While the economics must be understood and addressed by each household, we must also remember that the security of this nation is still uncertain. Are we so much weaker from those Americans who pulled together in 1941-1945, and weathered a much more severe storm?

No! This is the time that we Americans must not become more isolated - but less isolated - from the communities we are in. We must pull together under our proud flag - and understand that both our security and economy are important to our common ground. We must remember that for those still in harm's way, or those who would be called upon to defend us in the event of another terrorist attack, security issues must be addressed - and we must also cultivate allies in the world. As one community we must also find ways, each of us, to reduce the use and reuse our resources locally - whether it is conserving water, energy, or food - buying locally, learning to garden/farm, and supporting local merchants whose goods are local and do not require transportation. We must find ways to increase our energy efficiency, and redirect our American lives which have for too long been carefree of such resource issues. These sacrifices are no less than our parents and grandparents made in WWII. Our time is now to show such similar heroism.

The real question that exists for us Americans is this - do we see this as the moment in time when we strike out in new directions, or hold on to the old ways? Do we come together as Americans - regardless of our party affiliation and solve tough problems, or do we allow our great political experiment that we started in 1776 to die a slow and ignoble death? Do we allow these to be the worst of times, or do we see them as opportunities for this Country and its Ideals to shine once more, again, brightly - as we learn to take up a new place in the world? Such necessities of our times don't require less connection to the world outside the US, or less connection to the communities we find ourselves, - but require that we connect more. What will history say about the 21st Century? You, my reader, are in as good a position to help write that history as anyone.

How will you help define our times - as the best of times - or the worst? In this matter everyone gets to decide equally.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Always, Always take someone with you to the Hospital ER!

Recently I had an interesting experience. I found myself going to the ER with an intense pain in my side and needing to have it checked immediately out of concern for a rupture that would lead to peritonitis. Granted if I had listened to my wife, I would have gone to my primary care physician more quickly, but I figure I pulled at least "a 1/2 guy, with some splash." While the triage could have been more effective once we arrived at the ER, I found myself playing good cop to my wife's bad cop - when we were trying to get my vitals taken. My wife was helpful in speaking up for me.

In this day of the health care field being under assault for rising costs and finding ways to make strategic cuts, modern ERs don't have the hustle and bustle that the NBC show, ER, tends to display. Duplicate equipment costs money, so they don't seem to have too many extra machines around - such as blood pressure machines. They aren't going to have as many staff on duty as once they might have - all in efforts to control costs I am sure. However, that means it is even more important that you have an advocate with you at the ER or hospital until you are lucid enough to watch and react for yourself.

My experience is telling of this. After we finally had my vitals checked, the ER found that I did have a strong need for immediate care. They put me on IV antibiotics, morphine for the pain, and otherwise started diagnosing and treating me. I found that the ER nurse would come in with the a machine to check my blood pressure, and then take it with her to check someone else in another room. I seemed to have been stabilized, was propped up on a gurney without a cuff or call button on me, and was waiting to allow the contrast to absorb in my digestive system for an hour before they could take the CT scan. No one was immediately around except my wife. After 40 minutes, I had been doing decently well when quickly I started feeling first more tired, then nauseous, then really nauseous, ... then the sense that my skin was on fire, started sweating profusely, and feeling far worse than I have EVER felt in a matter of moments. At the beginning of this, my wife ran to get the nurse quickly. This was all going on as they run back into the room.

When the nurse came in, her first concern was that I was having an allergic reaction to the antibiotic, which was not unreasonable given my medical history. They flattened me out on the gurney and put the blood pressure cuff on me; I was still feeling really bad. My wife, though, quickly suggested to further raise my feet even higher while they were cuffing me to check my blood pressure. Right before my feet were elevated, I had dropped from about 148/95 to 71/50 - which they called a "vagal." I quickly started feeling better once my feet were up. It was then that the nurse indicated the danger of such dramatically falling blood pressure - kidney failure, followed by other organ failures, and then death.

If my wife had not been there, I would not have had someone to run and get help quickly, and independently be assessing the situation. Given the position I was in - propped up in the gurney - if I had passed out without anyone there, I easily could have been found after 10-20 minutes or so - which could have been fatal. At a minimum, my wife probably saved my kidneys, and potentially my life by being there - getting help and assessing the situation as well. Part of connecting with people is making sure you know enough people to ask to go with you to the ER. For those with amble family nearby, they will serve. If you are someone without a lot of family nearby, then definitely start having those conversation with close friends and agree to be there for each other.

While I am sure the lawyers who read this will be assessing blame, it is MUCH easier to avoid the problems or deal with them quickly before the consequences occur - than judge people for years afterwards. For me, I am doing better after spending several days in the hospital. There luckily was no rupture and I am slowly on the mend.


At the time of this incident, as I reported above, the term the hospital used with me was "Vagal." Sometime after that, a friend who is a physician first used the phrase, "you might have been a little septic" when he heard the story. At the time, the term "sepsis" was not in my vocabulary and it went right past me.

However, several months later in January 2009, a Brazilian model died suddenly in an ER in Brazil when she presented with what they thought was simply a urinary tract infection that was severe. Within days, she went into "septic shock," lost consciousness and never regained it. In the days that followed, because of sepsis, she developed gangriene set in and they had to amputate her hands and feet to try to save her life. They did not and she died a few days later. I began to look into this incident since it had a lot of similarities on the front end to my experience, and made me very appreciative that my outcome was different.

The concern about sepsis, septic shock, and any other "true" shock became very real to me. I believe based upon my vitals I likely was on the beginning part of septic shock when I had a "vagal" and I was fortunate not to go into full blown sepsis. When these occur, a cascading organ failure can start that is difficult to stop - leading to hypotension, loss of consciousness, kidney and liver failure, brain damage and DIC, followed soon after by death. I was on IV antibiotics, fluids and morphine for 40 minutes at the time and I had pretty fast care when I went into shock, thus ensuring that I did not suffer oxygen deprivation to the brain or other organ failure.

If you do not fully understand the nature of "sepsis," and want to know what to look out for, please consider watching this video by the Sepsis Alliance, a non-profit educating people about this danger. If you go into an emergency room with the possibility of a severe infection, consider expressing "I am concerned about sepsis," and if they don't seem to know what that is, find someone there who does. http://www.sepsisalliance.org/resources/video/emergency/

Similar concerns also exist for other true shock conditions, whether it originates as septic (vasogenic), anaphylactic, or hemorrhagic (cardiogenic, hypovolemic, or neurogenic) shock. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000039.htm.
See also,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Sometimes you are the windshield, sometimes you are the bug!"

I like the above saying since it characterizes life well - that some days might be bad, but the next day might be a good one. The saying is as much about perserverance as anything else - about not to give up no matter how hard life seems to try to knock you down at times. Be smart, keep plugging away, and see that connecting is always a good move.

Have you ever been driving in the slow lane, you are in a hurry and the traffic all seems to be passing you up. Finally, after you get tired of being left behind, you change lanes, only to then see that your prior lane is now moving faster and ... once again you are in the slow lane. Some of those times, I even change back - only to find out - yes, I am in the slow lane AGAIN. AARG! Sometimes in the back of my head I start thinking, "why is the world against me on this!" Finally, I will try to just let go of the situation, and simply say to myself, "well, I will get here when I get there, I guess!"

The people who ultimately succeed are not the people who always succeed, but are people who can learn from failure or struggles, know when to hold them, know when to throw them, know when to walk away, and know when to run! Granted, an old line from Kenny Rogers, but still a good one.

Many of you might have seen the movie, Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow. The thing I liked about the movie is how it went through the nearly parallel lives of one woman in two scenarios - what would happen if you hadn't caught that train and each event impacted the next. In one of the lives, Paltrow's character seems to always be getting the hard times, while the other geting the better ones, sometimes they shift. At the end, the character who seems to have had the best time - ends the worse.

Going back to that slow lane scenario, what if there is a cop ahead and ... if you had decided to speed in the "fast lane" and then you got a ticket! I have had times when I was getting slowed down and somewhat frustrated by it -- only to find out it was because ... yes, there was cop ahead. "Man, glad I didn't try to go into the fast lane that day!"

Maybe if you had ended up in the fast lane, you would have been in the middle of a huge accident. On one occasion on I-35 here in Austin I was going north in mid-afternoon pre-rush, when the cars are packed, but they are still hauling - and a 10 car pileup occurred literally seconds before I came along. I almost wasn't able to dodge through the scene since I was on it at 60 mph ... except the exit lane was right there and I was able to swing out to avoid hitting anything. As I went through, most cars involved where pretty badly crushed. The lane slower by seconds may have been in fact the lucky lane that day!

Part of connecting to the world is that you will put yourself into more situations where you can seem to fail or simply not connect well on particular days. It can be a day where everyone seems to be "against" you, and it can even shake the best people's confidence. Just tell yourself repeatedly, "sometimes you are the windshield, sometimes you are the bug!" Be smart, keep plugging away, trying to improve where you can, and don't give up on yourself or your opportunities - but learn wisely from them. Often life will have a way of turning things to your advantage, if it has not already been looking out for you by putting you momentarily in the slow lane!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Have you offered to help someone today? Part II

Rather than trying to connect primarily by asking new people to help you, consider ways you can help them. If you want to really connect with people, a LOT of people, and achieve your goals - try this method. While it is not a short-term strategy, it is very effective.

Connect to people and organizations that are just neat, and those who you are more likely to want to reciprocate the connection back to you. I would suggest finding a skill set you are good at, which provide value and is easy for you to provide, and do so. For me, the skill I have that helps people and organization is photography.

For the last decade I have done a substantial amount of event photography for non-profits, trade associations and political campaigns - all of it free or only for reimbursement. It is great practice and often fun. At a minimum, the experiences, stories, and contacts I have received are a huge value to me. Some of these include photographing Hillary Clinton within the "bubble" of the U.S. Secret Service for 3 hours in 2005.

I also have repeatedly photographing Sen. Barack Obama for several events, along with many other national figures.

More locally, I was able to photograph for Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson twice at the Austin City Limits Festival events, last year with Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, and also with Robert Earl Keen.

More recently, I offered to photograph my friend Erin Ivey and her group "Grand Hotel" [see also the photograph in Part I at the top], at the Driskill Hotel. I have provided Erin and Rolf some great photos they can use, and I think they are destined to break out. Erin and Rolf are just neat people and I was glad to help them. Listen to their music at:

This last week on Friday, I was also able to photograph a closed reception for Qiao Hong, Consul General of the Houston Consulate for the People's Republic of China, as a courtesy for the Austin Asian community. The weekend before, I photographed the "Heroes" event the weekend before that, for the Central Texas Chapter of the American Red Cross. Both neat events.

I have even been able to photograph Sarah Butler as Mother Ginger during the Nutcracker from backstage at the Bass Concert Hall. That was pretty neat, too!! For the Butlers, I have repeatedly offered my photographic skills in humble "thank you" for the great things they do for the arts in Austin, and for me in particular. I am a Knight of the Symphony because of the Butler family.

What talents do you have and who can you offer to help by volunteering your time? Ask yourself that question and then find ways to help! It is an excellent way to get great opportunities and connect to the very people you seek.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Have you offered to help someone today? Part I

Often I have noticed that people seem lost in their efforts to connect to others - particularly when they want help. Often when we need help the most - we feel desperate, and we are too quick to assert our needs over the needs of the other people around us. Another huge stumbling block is the interest in only having the other person provide help, and not ensuring reciprocity.

While it might seem counter-intuitive, this is a bad move to assert one's own needs too aggressively. This tendency, while seeming to be direct, is actually somewhat selfish and unproductive. You are essentially saying, "hey, I don't know you, or don't care about your situation, but you ought to help me because I am me." Unless they already like you for whatever reason and are willing to help you for their own reasons, you probably will not get what you are seeking on the short-term, and may even have sacrificed great long-term benefits.

Why? Because you have not honored the need to develop a relationship or friendship with others that will be true before making the ask for help. My wife, a non-profit development officer, has helped me understand these principles from a development perspective. My wife would tell you that "people don't give to causes, they give to people." People connect best by developing a relationship first - based upon common goals, common beliefs, common attraction, whatever. Even with people who are most generous with their time, they are often going to be hit up by too many people, and you have to ask yourself if your cause or need is more worthy then those they already support. Maybe! But until you know more facts, maybe not! And even if it is, it may well take time and experience before the prospect might agree.

Here is an example I have experienced. A non-profit called me up and said, "hey, give to us because we are a good cause!" although I have no prior relationship with them. Often in such instances, I indicate that we have already given to many non-profits and are currently tapped out. In some of those occasions, I had overly zealous non-profit solicitors get abrasive or simply insistent that they are the most worthy cause. The more effective way to develop that relationship as the solicitor is to say sincerely in response to such rejection, "Thank you so much for being involved and what you do in the community!," and then giving them contact information in case they might be interested in your mission in the future. You might not get their $$$ that time, but the next time they would regard you well - and might contribute or help in some other way.

I don't think asking for help is a bad thing, but definitely soft sell the ask if the relationship is still maturing - and I might suggest putting it in generic terms. Try saying, "I am trying to find people to help me do X; if you know of anyone who might be able to help and don't mind, let me know!" Also, make sure to measure the ask against what they might reasonably be able to do. If the ask is small, you might make it - but still be gracious with a "no." If they are in a position to help, they might. If the ask is a big one, avoid asking people you don't know well, if you can. If you feel you need to ask people who you do know well, I would even suggest saying, "You probably can't help me and I understand but I am desperate and need X. Do you know someone who can help?" In other situations if the relationship is a strong one, you are in a better position to be direct, but if you get a "no" in any circumstance, find a way to lighten the mood immediately so they know your relationship is still strong. You want them to know you care for them regardless of whether they help you at that instance!

While the above utilized analogies to non-profit, the tips by no means are limited in that context. They, however, are enlightening about "what not to do!"

Tune in to Part II for a better way to develop relationships, by offering to help instead!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Can you have a leader without a team?

Recently in an answer I posted to a question on Linkedin, I provided some thoughts on whether leadership is born or bred, part of nature or nurture. I felt that this was an appropriate point for this blog, as well, since leadership is all about connecting. To be a leader you have to have a team - or else there is no one to lead.

Often leaders miss the importance of connecting with those around them, and often may focus on the importance of their own ego of being "the leader" and their own success. With leadership, though, the focus has to be on the leader's team, not the leader. To be an effective leader, one also have to be skillful at connecting to others. The successful leader (regardless of their skill sets and natural ability or even training) must understand this point first and foremost.

Some might argue that certain leaders have superior genetic tendencies that help them succeed. I don't think it is unlike athleticism. Some people are going to naturally excel at sports, but others might struggle to get to the same point. However, as much of one's success is as much about one's heart and passion, which can also be a kind of natural talent. The ones who are born with the most natural ability, if not carefully crafted, often fail in the end. It is their own egos of not wanting to learn (and assuming that they know it all - the star "ball hog") that keeps even naturally gifted people from being able to connect to their team. Such individuals ultimately fail in leadership - despite exceeding talent. If you are someone without a team willing to follow, can you really be a leader? All of us can learn to improve our leadership. Thus, a component of leadership has to be nurtured and must certainly be learned.

There are definite qualities of leadership that do arise from genetic tendencies, but I think like the senses, other tendencies can often make up for talents that are lacking - if one learns to use such substitute abilities. For example, empathic leaders will effect their team in a different way, than someone who is a stoic leader. Each may be as effective, with the right team and in the right circumstance - if they are able to adjust their natural tendencies to achieve the same goal - which is to motivate their team to succeed. Like a parent, a leader also cannot always use the same methods for every teammate. Each individual may have to be led differently. If a leader lacks a skill set needed to succeed, he or she must also understands his or her limitations and empower a lieutenant to support that weak area, so he or she still can success in the mission. Thus, sometimes it is about empowering a leadership team to lead the rest. Good leaders often give the credit for success to the team, and take the blame of failure on themselves - as a method of empowering the team.

At the end of the day, a successful leader must set aside the ego and individualism of leadership and see how to engage the team. The leader must be certain to have everyone in the right position for their own talents, empower them to achieve their objective, and motivate them effectively to want to do so. Even with this, though, it is all about the team, not the leader. Whether you are ultimately the leader, the lieutenant or the follower, ... it is all about connecting.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Where have all the good Jedi gone?

It is funny that often the most powerful archetypes are ones that, while inspired by myth or imagination, have a powerful ability to inspire reality for change. One of those that impacts Gen-X strongly is that of the "Jedi." Many of us were in the waves of movie goers who went to the original "Star Wars" in either 1977-78, since the movie ran for months at the Theatre. We grew up in backyards with sticks imagining them to be light sabers - many of us wanting to be the Jedi, while some wanting to be Darth Vader.

However, for those that know much about the original source of many of the aspects of the story for George Lucas, you know that much of these themes he developed were taken from prior film or mythology - since those archetypes often are classic. For the generation before, it was the Lone Ranger. For the generation before that, it was Elliott Ness and G-Men against Al Capone. Each generation has its own version of these types, whether it was Patriots and Red-coats or some other group. Often the view that inspires the mind is not the actual historical view of these characters, which may be lost, if they were based on true fact, at all, but on the story telling of those facts. The Jedi were probably as much tied to the Musketeers as to modern fantasy.

But when we "grow up," do we have to loose that belief in things greater than ourselves - do those times of our childhood play have to be left completely behind in adulthood? I say no!

What do the adult world think of such a notion? They often buy into it, as well. It was repeatedly said that former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff of the Texas Senate was its "Obi-Wan Kenobi," by no less reputable source than Texas Monthly. For all the praise that is often heaped onto the story of Sen. Ratliff's efforts there to balance politics for so many years, this one reference by Texas Monthly often conveys the message of his noble approach to politics like no other. Why? because popular culture often underlines the way we see our society, and even how we may see ourselves in that society.

In the current time, at least, our society seems to have lost the belief in heroes and the ability of some to raise up and do great things for noble and self-less reasons. With all the heroic individuals who might be identified in the press, often as quickly the hubris or simply humanity (and failings) of those heroes are the next story lead. If Anakin Skywalker were a real person now, you can imagine the headlines "SKYWALKER GOES DARK, VADER IS BORN" would hit the press - and it would lead the news cycles everywhere.

But just as with that series, maybe it is time for a generation that was raised on the original innocence of Chapter IV to see that "A New Hope" might still be possible. We might still see ourselves not simply as people with faults and foibles, which we are, but also as people who are also capable of greatness and who can champion our own hearts and spirits - to be Jedi again. It was not lost on the Scottish and Irish warriors that often the theatrical would inspire the ferocity of their armies in reality - with War Pipes (bagpipes) playing on the hill. Maybe it is time once again that we allow no less significant an archetype to inspire us also to greatness.

"I want to be a Jedi Knight, like my father before me." Luke Skywalker


Monday, April 14, 2008

Breaking out of Complacency!

Last week my wife and I had an "interesting experience." While walking our dog Ginger a mile (the normal loop) and then an extra block, my wife wanted to go yet another extra block . For some reason I decided not to protest the second extra block (which is unusual). As we were walking, we noticed a bicyclist with a headlight coming toward us in the dark. The bike was not going fast, and then seemed to slow, stop, and the light fell 1/2 block up the road. The light didn't come up again.
At first I figured it a child who laid a bike down in the street at house. There was no scream, no yelling for help, but my wife expressed concern that the light still wasn't moving after 1/2 minute. She started walking faster to a jog, pulling Ginger. A few steps behind, my flashlight showed a rider, middle-aged woman, who was not moving. My wife went to her, found out her name, Paula, and asked if she was okay. Paula wasn't - she was hurt and may have hit her head (she didn't have a helmet), her shoulder and hip. We asked her if there was someone we could call on our cell phone, and Paula said, "No," her husband was out of town and there was no one else. We called EMS with Paula's approval. I talked to 911 on the phone, while my wife talked to Paula to comfort her and keep her talking. We found out Paula was 49 years old. She seemed really scared.

Likely the most scary thing is that Paula was laying partially in the roadway, in a very dark part of the street. She was not making noise much at all, and if we had not come along, she easily could have been hit by a fast-moving car (they often go fast on that stretch) without her even being seen. It was about 9:20pm and who knows when someone else would have found her. Paula's bike lights may have been visible in one direction, but not the other way. Since EMS said not to move her, I stood over my wife and Paula with a flashlight in case any cars did come along. EMS arrived about 4 minutes later. Heather and I took command until the EMS arrived and stayed until EMS left with Paula.

If we had not come along, it is unclear how long Paula may have lain there, with no one to call, no way to call them (she didn't have a cell on her), and seemingly unable to scream for help. Even if she had a cell, it seemed unclear whom she would have called - and I think that is what was so frightening to her. In whatever grace exists, my wife decided to go "another" block and I decided not to fight it. What surprised me most, though, is that with an EMS truck in the middle of that block, the only neighbors who came out were two walking at a distance without offering help, and the neighbor whose yard we were in front of, who only came out after the EMS had gone. From talking to Paula, she was from that block and know one apparently knew her.

Do you know your neighbors? Do they know you? Who would you call in such a situation? Modern society seems to accept such isolation. Maybe this is a message to everyone to connect more, since who knows whom might be the next person laying on the road in the dark, injured and alone. While Paula apparently had a guardian angel looking over her, do you want to rely only on finding the kindness and leadership of strangers to protect you or your loved ones?

[Note: Paula expressed great appreciation for us at the scene and called us the next day. She was home from the hospital, her husband had returned home and she was doing fine, although very bruised. Her dislocated shoulder had apparently popped back into place while she was loaded onto the ambulance.]

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Power of Age Diversity

If you were to google the term "Multi-generational workforce," you will find ample articles that demonstrate the stresses in both the work place and society at large as several generations are all feeling the need to compete for downsized jobs and opportunities. Everyone, regardless of their age or perceived value, wants to feel relevant. However, I would advocate the importance that all have a role and should have a seat at the table. The upside of this approach is that it utilizes the benefits and insights of those who have differences from their life station, but also have insights from the eras which they experienced. From this perspective, all truly are welcome and needed. While few in Austin fully understand this issue or provide opportunities for multi-generational networking, one group which does it better than any is the Austin Leadership Forum.

While some variations exist in describing the difference of age cohorts, more often the breakdowns are:

1). traditionalists/mature members (born prior to 1945);
2). Baby boomers (born between 1946-1964);
3). Gen-Xers (born between 1964-1980); and
4). Gen-Yers/Millennials (born between 1980-2000).

Various articles referenced at the end, describe how there are marked differences between these groups based upon the times when they came of age. According to varying statistics, approximately 5% of the workforce comes from the mature workers, 45% comes from boomers, 40% comes from Generation X, and 10% comes from Generation Y. Other sources cite the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, whose numbers show that for 2000, the numbers where 13% mature, 48% boomers, 22% Gen-xers, and 16% Gen-Y, and for 2010 the numbers are projected to be 3% mature, 37% boomers, 22% Gen-xers, and 38% Gen-Y. The growing size of the Gen-Y workforce and the static nature of the size of the Gen-X workforce is likely a factor to the smaller relative size of the Gen-X population compared to the Millenials.

While many projected attitudes are subject to over-generalization, some trends are noticed and broadly cited. Some of these trends may be subject to stages of ones' life station rather than one's actual age cohort. Are you how you are because you are 20, or because you are a Millenial? Likewise, it may also be as important regarding what one's parent's age cohort was, as is what your own is. Is a Gen-X whose parents were Boomers going to be similar or different than a Gen-X whose parents pre-dated WWII? However, with such caveats, the following observations are suggested.


Mature members made up "the WWII generation." They remember the issues associated with WWII and Pearl Harbor, might even remember the Great Depression itself or its impact on their community and young life. They often went through some of the toughest times, and consequently tend to be more stoic, not complaining openly about much and work hard toward their traditional views. They are more likely to be frugal, live more modestly, and see the need to save and reuse.

In the work force, while some have "retired" early in their 50's, often some of this cohort are still wanting or needing to work for various reasons. These workers are concerned about being downsized, and fear that they might have difficulty finding new work because of concerns of Ageism. Because many came of age under principles of respect for authority and are less willingness to "protest" loudly when slighted, the members may feel less valued by society, but are more silent about it. Such workers are driven by the integrity of the leadership, which is assumed, unless absolutely disproved. Because of the above concerns, some recoil from the use of the term "retire" and do not like to be labeled as "retired." Many also fear that the younger people discount their experiences and abilities, even though they might express concerns quietly about not being seen as relevant, but knowing that they have much still to give.

One person in this group I would note is my wife's Great Aunt Margaret. Margaret is awesome. She is in her early 90's and yet, as recently as her mid 80's, went whitewater rafting. If you did not know her age, she would likely come across in her late 50's or early 60's and "young." When Heather and I visited Margaret a few years ago in North Carolina, we really enjoyed talking with her. We went with her to Grove Park Inn, located in Asheville, and really enjoyed the trip. The hotel ironically was built around the year of her birth, and we got her perspective on that time. However, Margaret is very internet savvy and probably as inclined to participate on-line in activities as Millenials.

Another person I recently got a chance to talk to was a man named John, who is a member of the LBJ Future Forum with me. John appeared early at an event, as I did. I struck up a conversation and started asking him about his background. I found out that he was in WWII, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and had been in the Army for 30 years. John, as with other older leaders, was concerned that he wasn't "young" and seemed sensitive about Future Forum's younger demographic. I told him, he was definitely welcome in our group, and that people are as young as they want to be. John conveyed, in an understated way, that he was a widower for the last 18 years and wanted to find things to occupy his time. I tried to do what I could to be sure to introduce John when I could - so he felt welcome.

While this generation may have certain limitations, many are great assets that are too little appreciated or utilized for their relevance. While often this groups is not solely looking at earning money, although some do have this concern, it is often as much about feeling connected to life, and wishing to provide their insight and experience as being valued. One loss of our industrialized, urbanized economy is that the senior leaders of our community are not always engaged in the broader community as much as they could or should be. In pre-industrial society, such citizens often helped with child care, and even now, often grandparents help raise their grandkids. However, even in the business community, such leaders might be successfully integrated into boards or advisory boards for non-profits, businesses, or other entities.

Baby Boomers.

Baby boomers came of age in the boom times of the 1950's when the U.S. economy was rebuilding Europe and Japan after WWII. They came of age when legal segregation was the norm, and were emotionally shaped by the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements, and by their efforts to break down and be liberated from traditional views. Their childhoods, however, were shaped by the concerns of nuclear war and assassinations, but equally by the hopes of the space race and the Gemini and Apollo missions, and by the hopes inspired by JFK and MLK. While they often had emotions and beliefs shaped by race riots or anti-war protests, many grew up in new suburban America living pretty simple lives and were the first of the TV generations. Some of those early TV experiences were as inclined to show the greatness or sorrow of their times, including Army soldiers guarding 6 young black children trying to get to school under the first desegregation efforts in the South and the coverage of the assassination of JFK.

However, by the 1980's Reagan years, many Boomers had become the Yuppies of Wall Street, while others saw "The Establishment" as still controlled by the corruption of Watergate, and still fight against the government and law enforcement. Boomers are more likely to spend time fighting politically for something rather than to be active in non-political civic involvement, like the Symphony, Ballet and Opera. Consequently, Boomers are more likely to want to ensure that Roe v. Wade is not changed, and that environmental issues are protected in their free time. Much of those social consciousness issues are conveyed to their children, the Millenials.

In work settings, many Boomers continue to hold positions of authority in both private and public entities. Boomers often had the benefit of coming up in those companies when fewer people had college degrees and having one was an advantage, and at times of growth and prosperity. Boomers were also the first to see large down-sizing, and collapses of whole sectors of the society. As with their young lives, Boomers often had the best and worse experiences in the work place - rode the highs and the lows. Some have done very well in their work, while others have been hit by such difficulties as Stagflation, the S&L crisis, the Oil Bust, and the economic collapse following 9-11.

Boomers have redefined what growing old involves, and as they have hit each age mark, they redefine what 40, 50, or 60 year olds can do. Currently, boomers are the largest group of identified leaders in many areas of the community and business. However, as the primary group of leaders, it becomes imperative for Boomers to maintain age diversity in their organizations. The older members can make contributions of wisdom and experience, and the younger members can provide enthusiasm and energy. Boomers also must ensure that the long-term health and stability of the organizations are maintained by bringing up those younger leaders who can ensure leadership well into the future.

Generation X.

Generation X, ironically enough, is often wrongly perceived to be the "Slacker" generation. A likely reason for some of this view was shaped by their parents, who more often members of the traditional generation that pre-dated the Baby Boomers.

Generation X were born in the last fleeting days of innocence, when it was ok to run around the suburbs for hours, and our parents never knew where we were. Many were latchkey kids, whose parents both worked, but when it was still acceptable for the kids to come home alone without CPS or the government saying something about it. We were solidly a TV generation, but prior to VCR's (which only came in larger numbers in 1984 or so). We remember when some movie would premiere on network TV and it was an event. We still saw Saturday morning cartoons, and can sing School House Rock by heart even today. We wore Polos and Izods in the 1980's, and many of us were preppy in "junior high" (prior to "middle schools") and high schools. While there were some "punk rockers" and "kickers" in schools, they were frequently not the primary groups. Most kids were pretty basic in what they wore, and did not worry about style until teen years.

We also grew up when school shootings were not occurring and our childhoods felt relatively safer. Consequently, we still could bring backpacks to school and didn't have medal detectors or police on campus. The only "security" at schools was a small little sign at the external door politely asking "visitors" to check in at the office. Outside of school, during the summers we put together groups of neighborhood kids to play "kick the can" or "midnight ghost" in the summers, or "hide-n-seek." Often I remember running with kids in such groups and playing several blocks away even at dark in the summers – which our parents allowed "as long as there were other kids around.” And while there were definitely some who were rumored to use drugs, many of these activities really were innocent and nothing objectionable was occurring.

However, despite being relatively conservative ourselves, our parents constantly reminded us how we were spend-thrifts, and "money doesn't grow on trees," how life was in the Great Depression years or WWII, and "we should be more appreciative." We had winners and losers in school, and probably still had "Track and Field Day" in elementary school, and there were definitely blue and red ribbons given only to the winners. Additionally, many of us grew up when art and music classes had full-time teachers, and many of us in elementary school had classes where you would sing John Denver songs or other similar ones. Often our elementary school years were involved with "developing creativity" in some way or another.

Our parents likely tried to make sure we didn't repeat the excesses of the 60's and 70's. It was only rumored that some guy had seen something pornographic, but it was very rare, and often involved veiled references to sex or maybe only bare breasts (which would have earned a movie an R rating, maybe even an X). Generation X had few if any tattoos or piercings, except girls with a single piercing for their ears (if they were lucky), and it was scandalous for a guy to have one. Generation X was the first to be "bussed" in large numbers after many towns lost 30 year court and legal fights to desegregate. In Austin, Court ordered bussing started in 1980 under slogans of "Hell No, We Won't Go," but we did. In larger suburban areas, we were also the first generation to inter-racially date in large numbers, and developed friends from other races and background – because of bussing.

As Generation X came of age in college, we experienced the hard economic times at the end of the 1980's from the S&L Crisis and oil crash, and hard time even after many of us got graduate degrees in the early 90's. It was not uncommon for Gen-Xers to have difficulty finding jobs with a down economy, although some experienced the boom times of the 1980's. When you did get your first job, the pay was low, but we were happy to have a “job.”

In work places, because of this background, Generation X find acceptable that those able to do something should prevail, but do not automatically conform under unclear authority. However, being more conservative in many ways than Boomers or Millenials, Generation X often will strongly follow and support leaders who are perceived to be heroes or protective, but are also willing to leave jobs if they are not inspired by their bosses. As such, Generation X thrives and seek out mentoring and leadership/job development. Gen-Xers are often noted to be innovative, independent, creative, and willing to demonstrate leadership, and are more willing to accept management opportunities - either as their own bosses, or working for others. The days of running around the neighborhood without parents, making up games, taught many of us the creativity to develop their own rules, and then get a group together to follow them. Consequently, such workers can be very loyal to their bosses if they receive mentoring and development. Others have noted that Gen-Xers can tend to be pessimistic about their jobs, often due to concerns of their place between the Boomers and Millenials.

The Echo-Boom.

Generation Y, ironically enough, are largely the kids of the Baby Boomers, with some exceptions. Generation Y barely remember the Reagan years, and are more likely to have become aware during the Clinton Administration and its booming economy. Since the Yuppies often delayed having children until the 80's, their parents were often older, more established, and wanting to be "involved" with their kids. Often suburban innocence was gone before this generation grew up, when some story or another was in the press of a child being killed or disappearing. Kids no longer ran unsupervised around the neighborhood, and often were not even allowed in the yard to play without visual supervision (and if they were, likely CPS or the government told the parents to stop it!).

Being children of the Bill Clinton era, such kids came of age hearing about things on morning TV that the mature generation had never done sexually. With parents that were themselves "flower children," this generation also came of age with graphic internet pornography, and often were more willing to pierce, tattoo, or do other things in multiple places, disturbing places (from the point of view of Gen-X or the matures). Many of Gen-Y often exceeded some excesses of even their parents. To their benefit, they were also raised to recycle and care about the environment, and probably have far fewer stereotypes based on race, religion or sexual orientation, thanks to shows like "Will & Grace."

While this generation lost the creativity of neighborhood play, the generation also lost much of the creativity in school. Many schools had lost one or both of their art or music teachers with budget cuts and the need to focus on "core curriculums" like math and science. Many Millenials grew up at a time when school was all about teaching to standardized tests, which students had to pass, and teachers and schools were graded on their performances. There was little time for "Track and Field Day" in elementary schools, and since creativity was not testable, it was less likely to be developed. It was far more important, however, to know by your 9th Grade year, what AP classes you would be taking, and how that would impact your college. In Texas, the pressure was on early to know if you would be in the Top 10% of your class, since some colleges might not be able to admit you if you were not. While there were definitely "winners" and "losers," many teachers and parents wanted to stress the importance of "everyone is a winner," joked about in pop culture that "everyone gets a ribbon.”

The good side of the "helicopter" parents (Boomers who wanted to be more connected to their kids and hover over them) is that many parents talked to their kids about sex and all sorts of issues very young, and many kids probably knew more before middle school (the name "junior high" had passed on) then many of Gen-X knew on graduating from high school. However, the bad side of the "helicopter" parents is that many of these kids did not grow up making their own decisions and showing initiative, and living with the consequences as lessons in learning. They likely were booked by their parents into so many after-school activities that there wasn't time to organize any neighborhood events, nor would they be allowed to go outside unsupervised. Rather than playing outside, riding their bike miles away from house, their parents were far more likely to get technology to entertain them. Computer games were far more complex than Atari, with DVD’s, cable, satellite TV, IPOD’s, plasma and large screen TV’s, and all the other electronic toys, so playing inside was the norm. Millenials often had cell phones and pagers in high school, and rather than seeing “email” as new, it is seen as old-school, and the new way is IM and text messages.

While the generation has been blessed in many ways by the benign state of foreign affairs during their time, some dramatic events have also affected them. The Millenials saw the fall of communism and the Berlin Wall, even though they may have lacked awareness of its significance. Much of their life was not shaped by a significant nuclear fear in the community, but with relatively good economic times generally. The worst event of their time would be 9-11, the largest source of American casualties from a foreign enemy on American soil since Pearl Harbor. With its occurrence, this generation also makes up the men and women who joined the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq as volunteers. Many of this generation have shown incredible patriotism and commitment to defend and protect the country, even if their first patriotic shirt was from Old Navy on the 4th of July.

In the work place, Millenials show much of their attitudes from this background. They have less creativity and less likely, as a group, to be entrepreneurial. They are more likely to require far more interaction from managers, and want more validation and feedback. Many also are inclined, from the good times, to have high expectations of their financial status, and expect that those high goals will be easily met.

Some have noted that Millennials’ attitudes holding them back. They often lack the skills or experience to be put directly into management, but often believe that they should have such opportunities. They may be angered by older members of society in seeing them as “flaky,” but without experience, they might in fact overextend themselves in credit or otherwise – and some will actually be flaky. As an example, there was one leader I talked to many years ago about the concern that the community at large are less likely to invest in “young professionals” since they perceive us to be flaky. He stated he was highly offended by my comment, that he was not flaky, and that no one he knew was flaky. Within 2 months of that conversation, however, he unexpectedly quit his leadership role because he was over-extended. He had done nothing in the position and required the organization to try to find a new leader on short notice. Classic! I wondered why some older people might see young people as flaky? Imagine.

As the kids of Boomers (who themselves questioned authority), Millenials also may not have much respect for management teams, now made up of Boomers. One commentator on the internet wrote that Millenials might view Boomer as those “who they view as workaholics and, subsequently, the poster children for how not to build a successful career. This lack of respect for their elders is causing a stir. Boomers see Millennials as spoiled and lazy, and thus not worthy management material. The two groups’ have vastly differing definitions of key workplace terms like loyalty, professionalism and responsibility. The result: boomers who don’t want to spend time training Millennials, and Millennials who don’t think boomers are worth listening to.” Millennials change jobs at a rate as high as once a year, causing companies to be concerned about the cost of training such workers, while not benefiting from their skills in subsequent years.

However, in areas of technology, Millenials are by far more proficient. As a generation that often had laptops in classrooms (many college classes are wired so everyone can have a laptop open during class), they are the generation that were as inclined to send instant messages to their classmates, either helping with answers, or ridiculing others with the rest of the class in real time. They are not intimidated by technology, and probably as capable of taking it apart and end-running it.

As such, one observation about Millenials is that they can apply what is called “swarm theory” better than anyone else. A friend recently recounted an event he attended, where a large numbers of Millenials disagreed with the speaker. Apparently a large number coordinated their beliefs and opinions by text messaging each other, and then proceeded to pepper the speaker with harsh comments and questions, supporting each other’s efforts. By the end of a long period of this, the speaker was apparently visibly shaken. While there were no winners or losers among Millenials, with the skill of technology they may be able to generate a hive mindset with efficiency and effectiveness. The phenomenon of Facebook and MySpace show also that their generation may at times value superficial contacts and not always strive for deeper connections. The fact that many see “friends with benefits” as an acceptable way to have relationships shows often the casual nature of their connections. The result is that they do have the capability of directing much energy very quickly at efforts and achieve results in numbers, even if the effectiveness of any one person is diminished. Senator Obama’s political movement seems to have tapped into this effort.

The attention span of Millenials can also be a challenge in work situations. In a very short-term culture, Millenials often are more inclined to text over email – since email takes too much time. Needless to say, likely few Millenials will consider reading this blog. This also is a factor in the frequent job changes. One friend I know approached me because she wanted to develop a group of young leaders to discuss political affairs. I agreed to meet her for coffee and we discussed it. In talking with her, I quickly thought this idea sounded like what the LBJ Future Forum currently does here in Austin, and suggested she might look at their efforts and simply join them. She noted that she was aware of the Future Forum (run largely by Gen-Xers), but disagreed with its format. She noted that the Future Forum would deal with a topic like the Iraq War for an entire program (1 hour or so), and that was more information then she was interested. She envisioned someone standing up, giving a 6 minute update on one topic, and another person standing up and giving a 6 minute update on another, and so on. When I asked how anyone could discuss something like the Iraq War in such a short time and the concern of vetting all the view points, she was not concerned. When pressed further, I noted my concern that this would be discussion “by sound bites.” She said, “exactly!” While I know plenty of Millenials who are very much into topics at a deeper level and my friend was likely an extreme, news by sound bites might apply to more in the generation.

Should we be surprised that Millenials have short attention spans? If you watch TV shows or movies from 20-30 years ago, you will notice the slow pace of the plotline. Dialogue was far more developed then, and rather than quick edits, the shots were usually long and sweeping without cuts. The actors took pride in the craft of having long shots without cuts. Special effects where cumbersome and limited. Even if you look at the difference in “Star Wars” (now known as Chapter IV) and “Revenge of the Sith,” Lucas was forced to develop acting and plots in the original – but disregarded those in favor of special effects in the later ones. Also largely thanks to shows like Miami Vice and music videos, now the norm is far faster cuts and edits, often with shots that last matters of seconds only. Is it any wonder that we have developed a generation with short attention spans, often hyperactive, who easily get bored?

At work, therefore, Millenials might also get easily bored. However, the upside is that Millenials are probably less intimidated by “newness” and probably more quick to be willing to jump into situations without delay. Also as noted above, Millenials are likely to be willing to develop a more cohesive team of workers, and willing to rapidly coordinate their efforts.

Multi-generational team management.

Because of these various dynamics and the reality that Millenials will quickly become a large percentage of the work force, even as the Baby Boomers are leaving certain sectors and older workers are trying to remain relevant, many businesses and community organizations recognize the need for Multi-generational team management.

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Cookie Ruiz, the Executive Director of Ballet Austin. Cookie has long been active with young professionals, through her daughters JR and Boo, but also independently through mentor relationships with Gen-X and Gen-Y leaders and organizations. In talking with Cookie, I realized the benefit of using her term of“Age Diversity” in leadership, over what I had been using, “Leadership Succession Planning.” Cookie noted that for Baby Boomers and Mature leaders, the term “leadership succession planning” played into their fears and concerns, that younger people are telling them they are no longer relevant and they ought to step aside.

Instead, Cookie noted the huge benefit that she has had with “age diversity” on the Ballet board. As much as 10 years ago, she would actively recruit young 30-somethings onto her main board. She has focused on keeping as many people below 35 on her board and those over 65 years old. She wants a good cross-section of people, young, middle-aged, and older leaders. She finds that the dynamic that develops utilizes each group for their strengths while helping other groups offset their weaknesses. While Cookie is well aware that young people may not have as many financial or community resources as older members, she does not dumb down the process too much, although recognizing such limitations as issues – looking for a good balance of the issues. She seems to have achieved that balance. Rather than young leaders feeling they are not there on merit, they are contributing members, but Cookie is able to use the vehicle to develop their leadership further.

This posting has attempted to put in context the differences between generational age cohorts, and identify their strengths and weaknesses. All can be relevant in organizations, and those with long-term views ought to be identifying the best and brightest in each group – and cultivating them. While I have a bias to Gen-X and believe we are leaders that can assist Boomers now in leading, while also sharing enough qualities with Millenials to connect to them, in time I am sure that there will be ample Millenial leaders who come up and show incredible ability. I know many who fall into that category. But the final point I would make is this. If we as a country are going to compete internationally, we need to ensure that we are identifying all who can contribute on the team, and make sure to put them in the right position and letting them be relevant, while at the same time ensuring that we can have those positions filled in future seasons. Greatness is not established overnight – but can be achieved through deliberate recruitment AND retention of all valued members of the team.

For articles available on the website on similar topics, and as references, see:
or google your own resources.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Long Center and its meaning!

While many of us who grew up in Austin can remember the old Palmer Auditorium from our youth, the City has seen finally the opening of the Long Center. The view above is of the city skyline from the Long Center's city terrace.

For those that were not able to see the Sneak Peak weekend a few weeks back, you missed quite a show. Long Center staff did a great job of putting together a party that would make anyone proud - with diverse and eclectic entertainment - from African-American storytelling, to the ever popular Earth Harp (that stretched the entire city terrace), to Ballet Austin, and anything else that might be imaginable under its halo and roof. As a talent wrangler for the Saturday performances, I was able to see much of the backstage part of the Long Center few might get to see. I saw staff throughout the day, in efforts to try to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible.

Not that there were not hiccups here and there - that is to be expected! However, I continued to be impressed with the efforts of Cliff Redd, the Center's Executive Director, to make sure that everyone will see the Long Center as the home of Austin's arts, and that everyone (like all house guests) needs to feel welcome and valued when they are at the Center. At times when no public members where around, I even saw Cliff in his gracious way made sure to continue to express those warm attitudes to junior staff, sometimes who were concerned about this hiccup or that one. It is clear to me, though, that the staff at the Long Center do a great job, and I think will continue to make this city proud with its efforts.

In addition, the building itself is just beautiful!! This is a photo from the Long Center's website of the Dell Concert Hall. Getting to the Dell Hall early for my orientation on Friday night, I was able to take my own "private tour" of the hall itself, while the staff were making ready for Saturday. The hall is impressive, with every detail taken care of. What Cliff and the others would make sure you were aware of is that most of the center was built with recycled and reused parts of the former Palmer Auditorium, including re-smelting the steel, and reusing the roof tiles in the building, some still showing hail marks from their prior lifetime.

However, the grandeur of the final product stands also for the proposition that anything great does not come to fruition over night, and also not without much hard work and perseverance. The Staff, under Cliff's strong but graceful leadership, raised the money needed for the Center from all private donations, working for each dollar given. I would also bet that the total number of donors to the final product far surpasses the number of donors most centers like it can thank.

Even as soon as a year ago, Catalyst 8 took a tour of the center and saw the bones of the project. While it showed glimpses of its future greatness, it was still filled with lots of dust and determination alone. This is a photo that I took of the stage while it was still under construction, showing its basic framing. But even at this stage, Cliff would probably make sure to tell you that the entire Dell Hall is separate from the Rollins Theatre, including no common walls or even the foundation, so there is no sound bleed. However, what I found more interesting is the amount of backstage areas that the hall has, ... making it somewhat easy to get lost back there until you get used to the floor plan. Even some of the staff were still getting used to where things were the day of the Sneek Peak.

Also, even though the City skyline has changed some in the last year and continues to change with the new Condo buildings going in, the view then and now from the Long Center is surely the future of the City's arts coming together.

So what is the most important meanings to the Long Center for me?

I think the Long Center stands for the proposition that this City can move forward into the future, that we can integrate the past with that future, and make sure that while we find new greatness, we can include the historical charm that makes this city special. While change can take time and work, the end product is often worth the effort. This city, my friend, is out there waiting for you to become more involved! Consider the Long Center as one of the stops I would strongly recommend! http://www.thelongcenter.org/

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Consequences of Constant Timidity.

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt "Citizenship in a Republic," Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910.

I saw the quote below on the Leader Business blog (blog link is to the right) of my friend, U.S. Army Colonel Tom Magness, and thought it was appropriate to point it out here, as well. Tom's message is as applicable to all settings of our lives. Too many of us find ourselves as just timid souls. Being willing to fly definitely means you are risking a fall; however, none of the great ones remained timid.

One thing that few know about Winston Churchill unless they are military history buffs is that he had a huge failure in WWI. Churchill thought up the plan that led to Allied losses at Gallipoli, and was viewed by many at the time as a terrible failure for him. About 480,000 Allied troops took part in the Gallipoli campaign. The British had 205,000 casualties (43,000 killed). There were more than 33,600 Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) losses (over one-third killed) and 47,000 French casualties (5,000 killed). Turkish casualties are estimated at 250,000 (65,000 killed). Churchill was devastated politically by the battle's failure, and it took almost two decades for him to be reborn as the leader who helped lead Great Britain in WWII against Hitler. However, likely the loss at Gallipoli may well have taught him invaluable lessons that he and FDR used in the landing at Normandy on D-Day.

This lesson is equally applicable to all "critics." Before you are too critical of the ones in the game, you might ask yourself whether you could have done better actually in their shoes, and be measured in any resulting criticism. Often the kindest critics have themselves been in similar lines of fire, and can appreciate that "answers" are often more readily available when the stress of limited time and real consequences are not facing you down.

Be willing to be daring in some measure, and you will often gain lessons that will help you find your own time of greatness, and the greatness for those around you.


The Benefits of Being Open to Life!

I have had some neat opportunities this week, in part because of my willingness to embrace life. For those that wonder "why should I network or connect" or "what is in it for me - now!," life often requires that you simply wander into its waters and see what the tides bring you. For those who have not seen the benefit of connecting to life richly, I hope these stories will encourage you that - yes, you too can add a lot of great opportunities to your life - if you are open to them.

Earlier this week, I had a great conversation with John Pointer, a local musician, who was kind enough to perform for the Catalyst 8 and Austin Music Foundation "Band Together" event that occurred on Tuesday.

While I have had some prior conversations with John, I saw his whole performance and he impressed everyone at Catalyst 8. John is such a great performer and very smart guy. I was also able to get a better sense of him, and took some great photos at his show for his use. For those interested, please note that he has a show at Momo's in Austin this Saturday, March 1st, so consider checking him out. John's future is definitely bright and you only get the full since of his skill when you see him live. http://www.johnpointer.com/bio.php.

But in addition to that, I met his friend Erin Ivey. Erin does the awesome vocals for a new group called Grand Hotel, which has a 20's/30's jazz piano sound. The song I would strongly suggest you check out (it will take a few minutes of your time) is "SportinLife" which is the first to pop up on their website. Erin is definitely a talent who is going to break out at some point soon - in a big way - trust me on this. I want to try to work with my contacts in the art community here in Austin to make sure local filmmakers know about her. If their music were to be included in the right movie, it will dramatically increase the likelihood the movie would also break out.
Finally, at the mixer for the Network Austin Mixer, I was able to meet more really neat people. One was Joe Morton, whom many of you know as "Miles Dyson" from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Joe is in Austin, where his new movie will be released soon, called "Badlands," so consider checking it out. While I took some photos of him and the others associated with the movie, I tried to make sure the Hollywood people were ok with my photographing them since we don't want to get that much like LA. Other than this blog, I will be only providing the photos to the Network Ausitn Mixer for their website.

If you are at all into art, any kind of art, consider coming to a future mixer since the people there really are some of the most generous people around, - in town or otherwise. http://www.networkaustinmixer.com/

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why artist can particularly benefit from networking!

Many of my current efforts with the Long Center for the Performing Arts and its emerging leadership group, Catalyst 8, involve my efforts to collaborate with other parts of the arts/creative community here in Austin. While part of this effort is with Catalyst 8 under Boost and Boostcamp, part is independent of my leadership role in Catalyst 8.

There are several very outgoing arts groups in Austin, who are really finding great ways to both engage their own constituencies and members, but also find ways to reach out to other groups. At the top of the pile are several stellar groups, which I name in no particular order: the Austin Music Foundation, Bootstrap, Reel Women, and the Network Austin Mixer (which is run by Steve Barcik and others). From the efforts of these groups, along with Catalyst 8, I believe that the Austin art scene is making great strides to network across all the creative community. However, those efforts definitely can and should be increased.

Why is this a very appropriate post for this Blog?

I think that many artists/creative personalities are less inclined to see the importance of networking - particularly in areas outside their own media, - often because artists are introverted and sensitive. Social networking often is much easier for extroverts, and those that are not too sensitive to rejection. Networking is all about a number's game - and part of that process is knowing for certain that there will be those that do not appreciate you. While sometimes the rejection in fact is very personal, it cannot be taken as such - and you have to focus on those who will be receptive to your efforts. For artists, such rejection is often hard to take - given that their lives have little protection from the world's wind and tides ... which is why they are so capable of expressing such raw emotions.

Even with those "performing" artists who might seem extroverted, often they are only playing a role of an extrovert, helped in part by the stage lights that make the crowds much less visible to its stage performer. While there are definitely extroverted artists, the nature of art often pulls people inside themselves at the highest points of creativity - making them very exposed. Some artist cope with the anxieties of such raw connections to people with drugs or alcohol, or some simply retreat from the public world.

Similarly, much of what extroverts must do is contrary to an artistic bent. Extroverts tend to limit their intimate connections to the people around them at any one moment, to any one person, and rather connect in a more limited state to more people. As an artist myself, I have found that my own muse and inspiration have quieted as I have become more extroverted. Some of that can be, in part, that I am no longer the "tortured" artist. When one's life is filled with contentment, rather than strong poignant glee, surrounded by misery and agony, some of extremes of the artistic view of life is lost.

It is true that artist are not always required to connect to the outside world for their art; artist often can live in solitude. The difficulty for artists and others in the creative community, however, is that often connections are either required for one's own emotional needs, or even absent that, often are required to be able to leave behind the proverbial "day job." Often the term "starving artist" is all too true, and for an artist to develop fans, customers, and success in their own life-time, they must develop the business side of their art. For these, collaborative efforts may increase their ability to achieve financial success.

Here is a basic example of how collaboration can occur.

Often live musicians may believe that they would have no need to connect to visual artists for the sake of their own art. Live musicians' ability to be noticed is, however, often impacted by their cover art. Also, many live musicians are not as artistically skilled in the visual media as they are with music. For such artists, they might be wise to partner with visual artists or photographers who can do their covers and other publicity art. Similarly, by partnering, the live musicians and the visual artists increase their likelihood of each becoming recognized, since if one breaks out, the other might also. Each artist's base of supporters can be used to support and spread the awareness of the other. Their contacts can be pooled into an alliance.

Another good example. Live musicians and filmmakers might collaborate more.

Local emerging filmmakers might consider finding local bands that had a good regional following, and approach them about putting one of their songs in their movie, or even have the band assist with the score. If the band has a good sound, that matches well with the tone of the movie, both the filmmaker (along with all others associated with making the film) and the band can pool their contacts into an alliance to promote the movie. If the film breaks out, it may well break the band out nationally, along with its director, producers, actors, etc. Similarly, a filmmaker can team up to make a music video for a band, which is essentially a film short. If the video breaks the band out to the next level, then the director may have new opportunities for his work.

While some of this happens now in Austin, many in the various art media agree that it doesn't happen as much as it should. Tom Schatz, the Executive Director of Burnt Orange Productions at the University of Texas, and Lance Keltner, an internationally known blues guitarist, agreed that much more can be done in Austin on this front at a recent Boostcamp event by Catalyst 8.

[Photo of panelists from Boostcamp No. 1: Launching your Art or Film Career to the Next Level, including panelists (from right to left) Tom Schatz, Amparo Garcia-Crow, Andrew Long, Lance Keltner, and John Bush. Feb. 6, 2008 at Mother Egan's in Austin.]

Why does this not happen more?

I think several things prevent more collaboration. As noted above, often because artists are introverted, they would rather work in silos than connect with people at all. Also, ironically enough, the creative community might not be as creative with ideas outside their own paint or script, such as with tools and vision of networking and business problem solving. Additionally, some artist might have ego and control issues associated with "teaming" up with others to find success. Some artists would rather maintain only their own sole "vision" of the art, rather than see that they are stronger with a team of artists producing something as a whole. While it is fine for any artist to be true to their art, such tendencies might prevent their ability to have a larger following and to be financially successful.

These same issues are equally true even within a particular media.

While some live musicians might be great singers, guitarists, pianists, songwriters and producers, many of them are not good at all these roles, let alone being good visual artists. I have seen cover art done by local musicians which is far less polished then their music. While some filmmakers may be great cinematographers, sound engineers, acting coaches, producers, and directors, many of them are not, and might also resist letting other artists participate in that vision, out of concern that it will some how corrupt it. As often with successful filmmakers, the final product is made by large team of professionals, from the actors, the producers, the sound engineers, the score composer, the live musicians making original songs, and all the others who win in separate categories at the Oscars. Yet, how many emerging filmmakers are conscientiously looking for professional sound engineers and other teammates to manage a portion of the film? Most likely not all. The well-known film professionals and up-and-coming filmmakers understand that teams win. Because of this, these artists will find success. Rarely does an artist find success truly as a solo act.

Another limitation for such collaboration might be that "I don't have the money to pay someone to do so I have to do it myself?" That may be true if the artist is not actively networking the remainder of the creative community in his area and elsewhere. However, often the emerging artists in various areas are equally wanting to find their own path to success. If the artists will network, find those contacts, cultivate the relationships and friendship from them, the artist might well find willing co-conspirators to a team vision. What is more, through a number's game, the artist might find those collaborators who share a strikingly similar view, and in fact such artists might not have to compromise their own vision much at all in doing their craft.

Finally, such collaboration is as much true of those parts of the art world that involve the "business" of art: legal and contract issues, accounting issues, marketing, the practical follow-through of various sorts. Many of those business people who are in close proximity to the art world, such as myself, are also artistically driven. Such individuals may have decided not to go the "artist" route, and only dabble in art as a hobby. Such individuals, however, may be great allies in managing the business of the art and may also be looking for that one great collaboration that will help them break their own professional careers out, as well.

The message I would leave artists is this: be as creative about how you view those areas outside your immediate art form, and look collaboratively at the world around you. To the extent that you know you have weak areas, find those people who will round them out and be a member of a successful team. While the final vision may not be only your vision, it might help you find the successful art career that will give you more freedom later on to explore that vision. It is probably not by accident that the band, Genesis, has had repeated successful albums at the same time that Mike Rutherford (Mike and the Mechanics) and Phil Collins have had successful solo efforts, as well. Compromise and collaboration is not automatically selling out your art - but can provide you the freedom to find it.