Finding the way out of no man’s land

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now. It’s been swirling in my brain, heart, and gut for quite a while, but every time I feel like I’m close to putting fingers to keyboard, I shy away, worried of the reaction from all sides.

It’s a sensitive topic, you see. A white guy writing to other white guys about being a white guy in today’s society and culture.

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Using the right tool

I was about to make what’s become a regular breakfast: peanut butter on a toasted English muffin. Disappointment struck when I realized I’d used the last of the peanut butter earlier this week. I remembered my frustration trying to get the knife blade to scrape the remnants off the sides of the jar, trying to avoid ending up with a handle — and hand — full of peanut butter. I threw the jar back into the pantry even though I knew it was “empty”.

I really wanted my PBM this morning, so I grabbed the jar — and a spoon. The large curved edge of the spoon easily scraped the sides of the jar clean and provided me with a large enough dose to satisfy my craving.

Made me wonder how often I end up wasting resources at my disposal because I’m using the wrong tool.

Finding opportunity in our reality

Life rarely goes according to plan, does it? This is especially true in our careers. As we move up the ladder, we gain more influence but our widening scope includes more variables that can steer our ship in unforeseen and unwanted directions — away from our intended targets. The position we dreamed of doesn’t materialize. The project we heralded gets bogged down in politics and bureaucracy.

There’s an old adage — don’t waste a good crisis — that encourages us to take those moments of chaos to usher in change faster than we could during more stable periods. I’d argue that we don’t have to wait for crisis to find our opportunities. We just have to effectively see the opportunity in our reality, even when that reality isn’t what we envisioned.

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How to keep your rockstar employees

Great employees (the rockstars) come and go all the time, because they have the talent and motivation that make them marketable. To keep them in the fold, organizations need to ensure two things: 1) the rockstar feels their value in the form of influence and opportunity to succeed and grow and 2) the organization has to show that poor leadership and lack of initiative aren’t tolerated.

When either of these things is violated, your great employees will fly the coop.

It’s on us

After reading Dave Lindorff’s article Obama and Progressive Change, I’m forced to ask myself: What is it about Obama that I think is so different from politics as usual?

It’s not the man himself or where his personal politics fall. Lindorff is right that we don’t know a lot of details about Obama. What makes him unique and magnetic in his leadership is how he’s decided to run his campaign. He’s the only candidate who consistently focuses the responsibility for change directly upon the people of this country. Just listen to his speeches. He is really asking for us to become participants in change — to return our country to a place of respectability and honor in the world.

He knows that one person cannot change a system that been so innately corrupted. But mobilize millions, and you just may make a difference. Yes, in many ways his campaign fits traditional standards. To gain the nomination, he must ask us for our money and our vote.

But the reason why I have embraced Obama is because he has asked me for more than my vote and my money. He has called me, and millions of other Americans, to live up to our own responsibility in changing this country from the ground up.