Memory Glue


I had an evening with a few hours of quiet and I was not sure what to do with myself. It wasn’t a matter of having nothing to do, it was a matter of choosing what to spend my time on. Sometimes life feels like a blur because it is going so fast. Being busy is great, but what about moving at lightening speed? I feel like I ‘saw’ a lot of stuff, but don’t really remember much. Isn’t it memories that we strive to create? Why is it that I can do a lot of things but not remember anything? What is the glue that makes my memories become memories in the first place?

I like to try new experiences which generally creates memories, particularly if the experience was a good one. Sure, I get the bad ones too, but I like to focus on the positive. When a memory sticks, I know it. I can feel it, and I can hang on to it. I was wondering if the good feelings about memories is the reason that people like to reminisce with friends about ‘good times’. Are we wasting time reminiscing when we should be trying to create new memories? If we aren’t creating new memories, is life a waste of time? Not every event in our lives will be equally memorable. Then our minds would work just like a computer – it would become a huge ‘file’ of stuff with no prioritizing.

Prioritizing is what we need. Our minds seem to do a pretty good job of prioritizing, but why? Does the emotion of the experience cause the ‘memory’ to stick? Is this the reason we make decisions based on emotion vs. rationalization? For some reason emotions play a large part of our lives even with the best intentions from a rational perspective. Can you think of a memory that is not emotionally based? Everyone has to memorize things like the Gettysburg Address, but that is a different type of memory that is forced through repeated exposure.

Emotions are the glue that makes memories stick. If we don’t have the glue, we don’t have or need the memory. Think of your first day of school, your first date, your first kiss, or saying goodbye to a grandparent or parent at a funeral. As I write, I feel a tear collecting in the corner of my eye. Why is this? Can I really feel memories as much as see them in my mind? Like a soldier returning from war that has suffered exposure to horrible things, they have an emotion around the event. In some cases the emotion is so strong, they get amnesia. The feelings are there, but the memory seems to be missing.

For anyone, like the soldier – they seem to carry the feelings of the memory throughout their lives like a bad cold. They feel like they can’t get rid of the feeling yet in many cases they already lost the memory or at least subverted it. Is this what happens when you have the glue, but no memory to stick to it? How does this impact your emotional state? How can you have glue without a memory? Is there a quick fix to get rid of the glue? Probably years of therapy will do the trick. Right now, I can’t remember why I was writing about glue or memory. Time to go out and make a memory…or some glue…or both!

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A student of mentoring

Mentoring is another form of education.

Have you ever helped someone solve a problem? Or talked over a personal or business challenge? Did you make the other person think? How was it to listen to another person’s problems and help guide them to a solution without telling them specifically what to do? I wonder if we all have within ourselves the capacity to mentor?

As I have entered what I call mid-career , it appears that there are as many coworkers younger than me as there are older than me, which suddenly puts me in a position to teach more and learn less. I don’t want to be the guy that says, “We have always done it this way”, but I hope what I can share is a lesson learned or two. Occasionally ‘that guy’ with his statements about how things didn’t work a certain way, will turn out to be right. Sharing an experience does not always have to be about the right way but instead, something to think about.

I like the idea that we can all learn from each other (my Utopia) but there are some people who feel they have nothing more to learn (I don’t associate with those people, at least not by choice). I am questioning now, what makes a learning culture? How can someone educate or mentor me? How do you learn? By making your own mistakes, hearing a story, or reading a book? I usually make a mistake which I wish I could have learned about from a book. In the end though at least I have a story I can use to help someone else learn (assuming they didn’t already make the same mistake or they were not unable to learn from a book either). At least my mistakes are productive. What better way to learn? Maybe I am my own best mentor? How are you learning (or mentoring) today?

Why didn’t I get the message?

With text messages, voicemail, e-mail and instant messages, I am surprised that people have so many communication problems. How many times have you heard, “Did you read my e-mail?”, or ,”Did you see my text?”. We are all communicating at lightening speed using all these different mechanisms, but I have to wonder if our messages are actually getting through. I am not talking about whether the text or e-mail arrived, I am talking about the message we are trying to communicate. Confused? Me too!

Terabytes of data (and other numbers of bytes that I don’t even know the word for) are being generated daily, yet people are lost and confused because they aren’t getting the message. I used to think of communication methods as including written, verbal, and body language. That was easy, only three options. Body language makes up a significant portion of the message – something like 70%. No wonder we are left trying to decipher a message. Imagine trying to read a book with only 30% of the words!

The other thing that stumps me is deciding what communication to use and when. I get in trouble for sending ‘that’ in a text when I should have communicated in person. Is the quickness and efficiency of texting and e-mailing actually making us less effective communicators? Probably. Every day I see e-mail conversations that ultimately yield no decision or outcome. Time to pick up the phone and talk. Is that always more effective though? The phone lines and language capability are not always perfect. “Did you say you are shipping me nine cases of wine?” or “You will call me back on another line?” Repeating the message back and searching for understanding are the only way to receive the message. What? You don’t understand? How about I call you later and we can discuss it? The communication challenges continue, but we can’t stop trying.

Can you see lying?

Last week I had lunch with a friend and we talked about the ability to read people, specifically the ability to tell when someone is lying. I wondered after that discussion what clues might ‘show’ a person is lying. Apparently Sherlock Holmes, who was a fictional character created by Sir Conan Doyle, had the ability to use small subtle clues to make large observations. Funny how we cannot ‘see’ certain things, yet Sherlock presumably, could see these clues. Why can’t anyone tap into this ability if they really focus?

The clues can be small – like a blink, a look, a hand gesture, or even a change in their voice tone. I imagine most people can see, hear, and experience the signs, but not all of us process this data in the same way. I imagine two people who look at the same exact piece of paper, but one has 20/20 vision, one is using binoculars, and the other has red-green color blindness. Something tells me what they ‘see’ would be different.

When someone comes to you with a problem, remember they may not be ‘looking’ at it the same way you are. Think of ways to embrace the viewpoint differences. You may need to help educate others to see what you can see. What at first they see, may not be all that is possible and maybe it just takes some practice to improve their vision. Maybe like Sherlock Holmes we can all learn ‘how’ to see subtle clues that tell us some important information. Oddly the best tool for learning, may be learning from each other. Is that what you see?

Blunt Egomaniacs Befriend Me

I have a new job! It is exciting yet scary. The idea of working for a new company and a whole new group of people is uncomfortable. I know this is true for everyone starting a new job, but how many people are hired over the phone never having met their coworkers in person? Maybe this happens to more people than I realize, but it is the first time it happened to me. At least social media tools like LinkedIn provided me a glimpse of my new coworkers.

The idea of adjusting to a new work environment made me reflect on the first days at my last company where I met a lot of new people. Each day new friends were made as coworkers bridged the gap and appeared on my Facebook or became my buddies to hang-out with on business trips. For some reason it seemed like it took a long time to get to know each person as well as a whole new culture.

Specifically, I am talking about Israeli culture. Working with a large team in Israel and numerous Israeli’s transplanted to the U. S., avoidance was impossible. At first I thought they were blunt (sometimes rudely so). I thought they had no feelings or were mean. They were very emotional and somehow right about everything (at least that was always their opening position). After spending more time with these blunt egomaniacs I discovered something surprising.

Under the harsh and often scary exterior were smart, caring, and compassionate people. Sure, they would disagree with you on, well, everything! I stopped counting the number of times I was enraged or irritated. In the end though, we seemed to just ‘get over it’. I can say that I always had to be at the top of my game, because this was the smartest group of people I had ever worked with. I loved working with them even when they felt like a thorn in my side. So at times, voices were definitely raised (as is normal with Israeli’s) but in the end it didn’t matter because we had a level of respect that transcended the yelling. Eventually yelling was not needed. Had they “Americanized” or had I “Israelized”?

I was sad about leaving my Israeli friends behind at my last company, but at the same time I felt fortunate that I had the opportunity to learn about a completely different culture. No one can take that away from me. From any job there are takeaways – bonuses, paychecks, a 401k and eventually maybe a retirement or severance check. I like to think that I left with something much more valuable – friendships and cultural understanding. I can only hope for as much at my next job.

Where is our sense of Community?

Yesterday as part of my job hunt I attended a local nonprofit group event called Southwest Job Network that was held at Temple Chai (yes there are Jewish people in Arizona). There were a number of people there for the new member orientation (those who were newly unemployed or just new to events with this organization.) Right away I felt negative vibes. I was sensing anger and frustration from many of the people. Maybe I am weird because I am so upbeat about everything so it was hard for me to see myself in that place, that place called “negativity-land”. I wondered if this is where I would end up if it took me 9 months or a year to find a new job despite additional education, training, resume rewrites, and interview coaching. I was trying to stay positive in place that at that particular moment seemed overwhelmingly negative, which to be honest is expected when people lose their livelihood and often their identity.

The feeling changed as soon as the guest speaker came in. The speaker at the event, Bill True discussed “Shame-less Self-Promotion”. I really loved his presentation. Anyone who gets the opportunity to see him speak should take the opportunity. I walked away with the idea that people like to ‘volunteer’ versus being told what to do and hiring managers like to hire people who are also selfless. It made complete sense and really goes against so many things being taught to job seekers. Managers are people and they want to hire people. Real people not robots!

From a personal perspective I recognize that I would want to hire the person who would do whatever it takes to make a project successful and not just a person who met all the qualifications. I want the person who would volunteer to clean the bathroom or take out the trash (if those were actual job duties) because the team has to work toward the needs of the greater good . No, not just the company greater good, the team! Team is the family you call co-workers, or something called community. (Hey, as the leader I will also take out the trash!)

I found it strange that I had to lose my job to see the loss in community all around me. I like to believe that every one of us has something to give or something to share. A kind word, assistance with a resume, a job lead, or even helping a person cross the street. Where has chivalry gone? (This isn’t just directed at men, it applies to women too.) The random acts of kindness are rare but cherished. What are you going to do to help someone today?

Caution, movies may cause adrenaline overload!

The new Robin Hood movie advertisements made it look like a Gladiator remake, but I agreed to see it as part of my Father’s Day present to my husband. To my amazement the fight scenes appeared in the movie theater, not just on screen.

In the theater, I was the lucky one sitting directly behind someone who had issues with their seat. Apparently the girl’s seat kept her upright and she couldn’t lean back comfortably. Her and her date kept looking back at me as if I was doing something to the chair, when I wasn’t even touching it. This made me think about how, any time you see a movie in a theater you expect that things may not be as perfect as your living room. Your feet stick to the floor, popcorn containers left by previous viewers cause you to stumble, and even though you arrive early to the theater for the perfect view, a tall guy always comes in at the last-minute blocking your view and leaving you no time to change your seat.

The Robin Hood movie definitely provided the promised adrenaline rush, but maybe more than my body could handle. I believe subconsciously a portion of my brain was activated that is not typically used. I am normally calm and easy-going, but this movie pushed me to a state of ‘fight or flight’.

Over two hours into the movie the woman in front of me turned around and said angrily, “Miss, will you stop kicking my chair!” I guess I was pretty annoyed at that point, what with the high adrenaline and the fact that I hadn’t touched her chair the entire movie. At that point I was mad for being accused of doing something, that I hadn’t done. I had a knee-jerk reaction (literally) because I kicked her chair so she could see what it would be like if I had kicked her chair during the movie. I am not a fight picker (at all!), so this is why I thought I was under the influence of adrenaline.

The girl stood up in the middle of the theater during the most exciting part of the movie and yelled at me about the chair. I can’t even say what she said – too much profanity. Somewhere in there she wanted to ‘take it outside’ to fight me. At that point I came back to reality and told her to ‘calm down’. Her behavior was not going to make me respond – I have two kids, so I am immune to the yelling. I think I shocked her with a lack of response, because she finally sat back down.

I realized my behavior was completely childish and out of character, but how much had to do with me, and how much had to do with my adrenaline overdose? I admit I can have a temper at times, and kicking her chair was a mistake, but at least I didn’t stand up in the middle of a crowded theater yelling at people. In the end, I felt sorry for her because I felt bad I had kicked her chair that one time and that instead of just letting go of her issues with the chair, she had to blame it on me. I just happened to be in the wrong seat at the wrong time. I decided a few things after this incident: 1) don’t watch adrenaline-filled movies at the theater (just watch it at home), 2) when someone accuses you of something you didn’t do -just ignore them, because nothing you say or do is going to improve the situation and you never know, they could be clinically insane.