In Life, Take the Long Way Around

BlackRockSunsetIt was a bone-chilling Halloween night, leaving our legs and fingertips tingling from the cold. My friend Linda, my older sister Marianne and I were making our way back home, three long blocks away, after filling our sacks with candy. Linda complained that her thighs were numb, so we had a brilliant idea. “Let’s cut through.” We knew we would save time by cutting through people’s property, even though we knew it wasn’t socially acceptable. And so the cut-through began. First Dennison, then Lexington, then our street, Northfield. Just three blocks. We picked up our pace. Our short steps turned into long jogs.

I was quite proud of my sweets stash. My new orange plastic pumpkin with the black handle was chock full of candies and goodies. I knocked on a lot of doors to earn that candy. I couldn’t wait to get home to show my parents.

From the darkness between Lexington and Northfield came two masked teenage boys, much taller than us, running, shouting “A-r-r-r-r-r-r” and grabbing at our goodies. I fell down, and so did my teeming pumpkin, spilling some contents on the ground. I was so startled, I didn’t even stop to retrieve my lost candy. The three of us ran as fast as we could to Northfield. We stopped to catch our breath only when our feet touched the sidewalk. That experience left such an indelible impression on my young eight-year-old mind that I vowed never to cut through people’s property ever again. (The impression, of course, was reinforced by my parents when my sister and I told them what happened).

The experience taught me an important life lesson: When you think of taking short cuts, don’t. Take the long way around. In the end, you will be safe (or even sane) and further ahead in the process.

How often does that little voice inside of you say “Oh, just put in the basic information. No one will know the difference.” Taking the time to think something through, do the extra research or write a content-rich report is worth it in the end. Next time you’re tempted to take that shortcut, take the long way around instead.

What Do You Believe?

beliefAs my husband and I sat, waiting for a free community concert to begin, the woman sitting in front of us asked her friend, “Where’s your mother?” The woman replied, “She didn’t want to come because this concert is being held in a Catholic church.” (Both women were Jewish).

The concerts for the community-based orchestra are indeed held in a variety of religious venues throughout the year. This concert just happened to be performed in a Catholic church.

How sad, I thought to myself, that in our modern society today people are still so “old school.” Then I realized this woman’s mother was from the Traditionalist generation and remained loyal to her strong religious beliefs. She did not feel comfortable in a church. While I respect her belief and choice, her belief was standing in the way of her enjoying a magnificent free concert with an internationally acclaimed young violinist. Did I mention the concert was free?

This week, Oprah Winfrey is hosting a series on Belief on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. The series examines the broad topic of belief, including religious belief, and reminds us that we all carry with us different beliefs, and we have the right to do that. The series opens up your thinking about what people believe and what motivates or inspires them to believe.

I realized that my opinion about the Jewish mother not attending the concert was based on my own beliefs. In this case, I tapped into my belief that every person should have access to the arts. The mother definitely had access. I also believe that human beings have free will. Now we’re getting somewhere. The mother’s choice – based on her beliefs – made more sense to me. I was less judgmental of her decision.

It got me thinking: How often do our strong beliefs stand in the way of innovative thinking or creative expression? What do we lose in the process? How does our lifestyle support our beliefs? What do we gain?

Get Smart About Generation Z

GeneraZWe have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next generation in the workplace, and it is here: Generation Z (Gen Z), individuals born after 1995. With 23 million strong, this growing segment of the population has the attention of professionals ranging from human resource vice presidents to marketing executives. Those Gen Zs who are not pursuing college are already working; those who have chosen college will be hitting the workplace in the next three years.

In 2014, Sparks & Honey released its report on Gen Z. Their SlideShare presentation, Meet Generation Z: Forget Everything You Learned About Millennials, is illuminating and will answer many questions you have about this young audience.

Since I talk about multiple generations in my communication programs, it’s important to educate myself on this rising generation. There is much to learn about the different generations, what sets them apart, what they have lived through, what motivates them and how they communicate.

Here are a few interesting facts that to share:

According to the 2012 US Census Bureau, Gen Z currently makes up the largest population of all five generations at 25.9%, followed by Millenials (or Gen Y) at 24.5%, Baby Boomers at 23.6%, Gen X at 15.4% and Swing (or Traditionalists) at 10.5%.

Gen Z’s are socially aware and want to make a difference, are more entrepreneurial, are inclusive and embrace diversity, enjoy creating things and have a global social network.

These digital natives multitask using five screens (electronic devices) vs. Millennials who use just two screens simultaneously.

They are more private, preferring incognito social platforms like Snapchat, Whisper and Secret to more public platforms like Facebook.

If you want to connect better with Gen Z, Sparks & Honey recommends:

  • Recognize their diversity.
  • Communicate using images, like emojis, symbols, pictures and videos.
  • Stay connected using shorter, more frequent messaging.
  • Treat them as equals; don’t talk down to them.
  • Include them in collaborative efforts.
  • Feed their curiosity (and since they’re foodies, feed them too!).

The full report can be found at the Sparks & Honey website.

An excellent Gen Z Instagram designed by Marketo, using the top statistics from the Sparks & Honey report, provides an excellent quick visual reference.

Get smart about this next generation. They are entering the workplace with determination and ready to make a difference.


Step Into Your Passion


It is a rare occurrence…to see people living their passion. When you experience that, you are inspired to find your own passion.

While driving on the highway tuned into to NPR this summer, I heard a Performance Today piece featuring Chris Thile of the eclectic musical group, Punch Brothers. Thile’s exquisite mandolin performance in the studio brought tears to my eyes. I listened with such intensity; I had never heard a mandolin played with such mastery and control.

Fast forward to this weekend. While strolling through the music building at Oberlin College (one of our favorite places), I noticed a Punch Brothers poster displayed on a wall. My memory kicked into high gear. “That name sounds familiar. Is that the same musician I heard on NPR?” Yes, it was. The group was in Oberlin this week sharing a series of master classes with young aspiring music students.

My husband and I decided to attend a 90-minute “Listening Tour” conversation on campus with Punch Brothers members Chris Thile, mandolin, Gabe Witcher, fiddle, Noam Pikelny, banjo, Chris Eldridge, guitar, and Paul Kowert, upright bass, along with guest singer/songwriter Aoife O’Donovan. Using their iPhones or computers, all of the performers played a diverse range of specific pieces of music that inspire them, including Bonnie Raitt’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s That Song About the Midway, Buck Owens’ Cryin’ Time, Sufjan Stevens’ Death With Dignity and Kendrick Lamar’s Alright. I began to understand what inspires musical creativity. Following the listening, the artists performed three songs, each one played masterfully. Two featured the clear harmony of Thile and O’Donovan. At the end of the performance, students gathered around each virtuoso, inspired by the music.

Over the years, I have had many conversations with people about the topic of passion. The word passion unfortunately has been reduced at times to a sophomoric description of something that we like. “I’m passionate about gardening.” “I have a true passion for life.” Without a fully memorable, meaningful experience to accompany it, passion is just a word. Seeing and hearing the flawless performances of the Punch Brothers and Aoife O’Donovan showed me what true passion looks, sounds and feels like. It is a complete sensory experience. Through intense facial expressions and body movement, the performers revealed their passion for music, like how Thile’s heels abruptly raised off the floor when he hit a certain note or O’Donovan’s gentle smile while holding a soft note. In watching the performers’ total immersion, I became inspired. There was nowhere else I wanted to be…just then.

How are you living your passion? How do you inspire others?