A Message to Men

The above is a recent photo of my daughter. She’s beautiful, smart and has an authentic spirit. Now that she is an adult, much has changed. I’ll spare you all the things you know and have heard. My post today is not really about her. This is a message to men. The ones who she might date, encounter or run from.

The behavior of men in the current frame is flowing like water from a fire hose. It’s sad and it’s real. I always knew it to be sad, but not real. The “real” came into focus over the last 2 years. Here’s why:

  • My wife has endured harassing behavior inside of more than one large employer
  • My daughter is heading into a world where immature men seem to be everywhere
  • I’ve spoken to more than a few intelligent women who confirm the first two bullets

My message to men is simple:

Think, stop and back off.

If you’re reading this and you’re a man, I’m trying to keep it simple. If you apply the principle of think, stop and back-off, you will contribute to turning this mess around. It is a mess, by the way.

I think the many men are faced with many contributors to creating bad behaviors.

The end of reason is real. Many of us would have to agree that our culture is one of emotion-driven actions, I feel this way, so I behave this way. Reason restrains and asks the tough questions. Without . reason you might feel that every woman wants to…they don’t.

The disappearance of fathers is real. If you didn’t have a father who took the time to explain that women are co-equals, you might take your cues from music or film. Those two are very flimsy foundations to build on.

The dumbing down of leadership is real. You know it’s true, leadership is now caricature and the playground for men who should not be allowed in. I think many men, if their capable of honesty, would agree that most managers don’t belong in the roles given. By the way, your organization shares in the responsibility here.

I have more concerns and ideas, but I think if all of us men would just think, stop and back-off, we might have a shot in a much needed turnaround. It’s kind of a starting over approach. I’m certain that my wife and daughter would value the change.

Elephants in the Room

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I had the pleasure and honor to shoot a part in Elephants in the Room a few months back. The trailer is above.

I’ll let you check out the trailer to learn more, but the subject matter is so timely and relevant. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to check out the full length when it hits full release.

Work and Employee Happiness

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Most organizations, these days, are speaking the language of happiness. For some entities it’s just talk, for others a striving everyday.

Employee happiness and engagement are connected. Maybe it’s obvious for you. I come from a view that says your company is not responsible for your happiness. Only you can own that. Whether it’s changing roles, transferring geographically or firing your boss with your feet, it still comes back to you.

Why are so many employees unhappy?

My answers:

Employees make choices that lead to unhappiness. On the whole, we live unbalanced and incongruent lives. The unbalance is found in our willingness to pour mind, body and soul into one area of life, while ignoring another. See the work versus family civil war, many are fighting right now. As someone who used to value my work over my family, it is a civil war. The incongruent part is the BS we tell the world. For example, “family is number one for me.” Nobody is perfect, but if you know you haven’t lived this out in over two years, you’re living incongruently. These are the recipes for unhappiness.

Employers foster unhappiness by the conditions their employees work under. Here’s the deal, if you are a CEO and you expect an employee to get excited about the stock price or last quarter’s earnings, you need a straight-jacket. Happiness and engagement happen when there is a great mission to achieve, something beautiful to create or a dangerous problem to solve. Without those, most will leave, or worse, die and stay.

Employees have defined happiness incorrectly. For me, happiness is fluid. It’s not a genie to be captured in a bottle. If you would have looked at my life yesterday, I would have been 90% happy and 10% unhappy. Those numbers don’t make me special, I just chose to be happy 90% of the day. I chose to be unhappy too. I think many are too fixated on happiness. Like life, happiness is not an arrival point. If we look at happiness as fluid, we’ll be better able to handle the stuff of life. Maybe we’ll find that moments of unhappiness are not the end of the world.

Employers are living in the past. Organizing your company like the industrial revolution happened last year is a disaster. Most employees live life in and around the 21st century. It frustrates the hell out of them when they’re treated like an assembly line worker or treated as if they’re a 4th grader.

In the end, every employer has an agenda. It may be a fit for you, or not. Either way happiness is your animal to wrestle with.

My Top Ten Finds in 2015

The following are my top ten finds in 2015, so far:

  1. Personality differences between entrepreneurs and employees –http://read.bi/1vOZdQ6
  2. The stability trap – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/stability-trap-carmen-medina
  3. Why telemedicine’s time has finally come – http://onforb.es/17EawVP
  4. World’s most romantic cities – http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/worlds-most-romantic-cities/25
  5. Building the chest through exercise – http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/anarchy-chest-workout
  6. Risks leading to reward – http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/243061
  7. Jazz vs. Symphony – http://on.bcg.com/1hi5LVj
  8. Will Uber make your job obsolete – http://cnn.it/1FumHQf
  9. Academic economics, strengths and weaknesses – http://bit.ly/1HOwfGS
  10. Lack of sleep and Alzheimer’s – http://bit.ly/1CVmdUh

 

The Organization Versus Your Health

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I admire the organizations that are structured around encouraging strong wellbeing for their people. It’s rare, but important in so many ways. Kinda makes sense that a growing organization would want employees who are sharp mentally, physically and spiritually. Only trouble is the rest of the sample size makes up the majority. They’re representative of organizations who may market themselves as a “best place” to work or a “healthy employer,” but the reality is far from it.

Call me the Upsetter of the apple cart. I’m not alone, you know?

One thing must be made clear; it is not the responsibility of the organization to make sure you have great wellbeing, that’s a you-responsibility. I certainly feel that many employees are bound and determined to kill themselves. The blame for the diabetes problem in the U.S. does not lie at the foot of H-P or BofA. Most of the blame is ours to accept.

Some time ago I observed the perfect storm of the organization versus the health of the employee. I was doing a project, unrelated to my work in wellbeing, I felt my senses and passion for the wellbeing of people come alive in the engagement. It would safe for me to write that as the organization was making great strides to move forward, financial results and such, the wellbeing of the employees was moving backwards. I can’t say if that reality kept the senior leaders up at night. One thing is for sure, as I look back, it should have.

So what are employees to do? They’re bombarded by messages telling them to save for a retirement that often seems like an impossibility, raise perfect kids that get scholarships to the best colleges, trust in an economy that never seems to be as good as reported, and the list goes on. I have a few ideas, not silver bullets, just some things to consider/try:

  • Make wellbeing a priority. This post could be a starting point for reference.
  • Don’t ignore your wounds. These are the emotional disappointments and failures you’ve never looked fully in the eye. Trouble always hangs around wounds not dealt with. Healing leads to breakthroughs.
  • Leave the organization that refuses to create conditions for good wellbeing. Make this decision with thought and care. Don’t wake up tomorrow and make an emotional jump. However, the problem must be dealt with.
  • Get a coach/advisor/wise-man/woman. This is not a time to go it alone.
  • Look at your bad habits and take responsibility. Like wounds, these need to be dealt with.

Health is undefeated in the game of life-good outcome or bad.

 

5 Questions with Jim Mitchem, Author of Minor King

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This is the first time I’ve interviewed a novelist. It’s a special treat for me because I’ve been influenced and encouraged by Jim Mitchem’s writing for some time. Minor King is his first novel and its a fine read. Enjoy!

 

Was there an “a-ha” moment when you decided you had to write Minor King?

Like the main character in the book, I’d been mulling a novel for a while. But over the last decade my life had become pretty busy, and I couldn’t focus long enough for clean, contiguous thought. Over the years I’d started a lot of long-form stories, and had files full of ideas, but nothing grabbed my interest enough to commit to the sacrifice necessary to finish a novel. That is, until the ending of Minor King occurred to me. When that happened, I knew that I had a special story. So essentially, I wrote Minor King in reverse.

The main character, Jim, experienced a lot of pain and tough roads. Why’d you shape him this way?

Minor King is written in the roman à clef style. Which means that it’s loosely based on my own life. Many of the struggles that the protagonist, Jim Christianson, faces are actually part of my own personal story. As a result, and because I’ve written about some of these personal trials on my blog, some of my friends have had a hard time separating reality from fiction.

I felt that it was necessary to include a deep backstory to reinforce a few important ideas. First, America is the land of opportunity. Most of us believe that all you have to do is work hard, pay your dues, and keep your nose clean and you can go as far as you want here. Or so, that’s what they tell us. By establishing the rags-to-riches backstory, or rather in Christianson’s case, rags-to-middle-class, the reader is able to attach empathy to the plight of the protagonist because we’re all in the same boat. I also wanted to give the reader a deep reference point to how far the character came to get to where he is in life so that the ending comes as a surprise. Finally, I used his painful past as a way to reinforce the idea of Christianson’s faith. God pulls him from the clutches of suicide, after all.

The dynamic between Jim and his partner/boss is pretty intense. Was this type of relationship one you could relate to?

Absolutely. A few years ago I decided to throw myself into a startup with the same kinds of goals that Christianson had with his own endeavor. Every character in the book but one is based on real life relationships I’ve had. Including the relationship between Christianson and his boss, Matthew LeCure. Granted, this is where the fiction really takes hold. My business partner in real life was not nearly the selfish person that LeCure is. Creating a hatable antagonist was a fun exercise, and important to keeping the reader interested.

Were there any underlying influences in writing the novel? 

I was a Literature major in college. From Dickinson to Faulkner, and Chopin to Márquez, we spent a lot of time deconstructing the classics. Even the Bible. As a result, I learned how great writers spoke to the reader on different levels. First, there’s the obvious storyline. But just below the surface were clues to other concepts. Secrets, really, that affect your subconscious. In Minor King I employed this technique, albeit on a more rudimentary level, throughout the story. For example, all the times referenced in the book directly correlate to verses from a specific book in the bible. A book which one of the main characters is named.

I also felt like the overall feel of King was something like a tragic, modern American story. Having studied The Great Gatsby in school, because it’s the prototypical tragic American novel, I modeled one of the characters in Minor King after an icon from Gatsby. Think yellow-rimmed glasses. And for the record, I hated The Great Gatsby.

What’s one big take-away you’d like readers to get from reading Minor King?

It’s been really interesting to see how people have interpreted Minor King. Some people have gravitated to the idea of the oppressive machine that we all seem to be a part of in America. For others, the gross inequity of wealth distribution has resonated. Still others have latched onto the concept of our dreams passing us by. And while all of those themes are important, I wrote this story around the idea of faith. Faith to do that which doesn’t seem possible. Faith in a power greater than ourselves. Faith in our dreams. Though with how the story ends, it could be interpreted that faith is the final phase of madness.

 

jmitchem

Jim Mitchem is a copywriter who found his way into advertising via a dirt path on the outskirts of society. Born with no obvious talent, Jim began writing at a young age as a way to lasso the stories that ran circles in his mind. Dismissed as folly when he shared them, he gave up writing for drinking at the age of 17. After a stint in the USAF, and armed only with a pen and looseleaf paper bound by elastic, Jim meandered through the US until he awoke in a gutter in New York City in 1991. His life and his writing have improved significantly since giving up booze. And while he doesn’t think that’s a coincidence, he does consider it damn ironic.

Minor King is his debut novel.

 

You Are the Disruption

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As I’m sure you’ve heard, disruption is the groovy thing to be in. VCs dream of it (the success part anyway), designers and developers are pushing to make it happen. I have a little different take.

You are the disruption.

I’m really sick of hearing about the latest and greatest gadget that will revolutionize life as we know it. Disruption and advancement are great, but if we don’t see a change in human behavior, it will be a complete and utter waste of time.

Humans are moving backwards, technology is moving forward = not sustainable.

What is being left in the dust are the choices of life. I really wish the schools would require courses in life management. Imagine what an impact that would be! No judgements here, but we suck at making good-to-great choices. I think average would describe our best day.

Ok, I’m ranting! Now, let me give you a concrete example:

Diabetes is near epidemic in the U.S., Type 2 most applicable here. The diagnosis of the disease is typically related to obesity. The main causes are rooted in diet choices and lifestyle (sedentary behavior) choices. These choices are cannot be separated from the outcomes (heart disease, stroke, cancer, and amputations). Ironically, we refuse to turn around.

I sat in a meeting with the head of diabetes research for a large university a few weeks back. In that meeting, the development of a pill to combat the accumulation of visceral fat was described. If you didn’t know it, visceral fat is the killer fat because it accumulates around our organs. In so many ways, the research is focused on developing a pill to fix what we refuse to do for ourselves. We’ve seen the enemy.

So here’s a real disruption; join me in making choices that shake up ourselves. No more blaming the President, the tea party, our parents, our employer, you get what I mean. You might even start a ripple.

This is a big deal, friends.

 

The BS Culture and Me

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I’m thankful for my friends who’ve had the courage to call me on my BS. The was done out of love and a keen sense on their part that something wasn’t right. In the last 10 years I’ve been recovering from the habit. I’m sure my time in corporate America, insecurities and a fear of being the “real” me contributed to all the posing. I see it for what it is now. I hate it!

Two strong conclusions leap out. One, we live in a BS culture. Two, if we don’t do a gut check everyday (yes, everyday), we’ll become that BS culture.

Some people who know me on the surface, might be surprised by the above. They know my acting, not who I really am. Fortunately, BS rears its head less and less these days, so don’t worry, I’m the boy you see now.

So what’s so urgent about the problem? Time, and time is running out for all of us. Some of the most outwardly successful people personify the problem. They act as if tomorrow is an eternity away. Most would never dare call them on it either, let alone walk the other way. A sick form of enablement. Often we close our eyes and pretend to only hear and see certain things. Most are willing to look the other way if it means getting what they came for. In America, that usually means a title, an investment account or who they know. It’s a cold reality we live in.

I only woke up, and learned (still learning) how to live differently, when I lost all my stage props and the interest of the culture. Imagine going to an audition and thinking you had one more good line for the director. Only to find, God was the only in attendance. With me, He only wanted to talk about where the real Eric was. I used to walk out, but then my life unravelled to a point where I had nowhere else I could go.

It was the best place for me, I could breathe.

Dehumanizing the Employee

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In my last post, I rang the bell about the gap between human development and the advancements of technology. The disharmony is evident to many. Within the large and mid-market organizations, there is another disturbing trend afoot. We are witnessing the dehumanization of the employee.

Dehumanizing the employee occurs as many employers are looking to advance efficiency and innovation. It’s a false belief that those twins can move human development the way technology does with automation or research.

One area worth looking at is the process many organizations use to hire talent. Keep in mind that the talent is made up of flesh and blood. I realize this can also be a source of real frustration for those in talent recruitment. Technology has convinced many senior leaders that vast problems are solved in the hands of inventive software.

The idea of using screening software has a place. However, it’s proven, the folly of hiring based on keywords. The old saying, “we hired your resume, but what we got was you” is on mark here. More critical thinking in this spot is what we need. Seems like that would remedy the incongruent state of the talent recruitment processes.

So the dehumanizing continues. What do we do now that the horses are out of the gate?

  • Put on your big boy pants or big girl skirt, and be a leader with integrity and vigor
  • Change the culture. This is not for the faint of heart, but if you do the first bullet it will increase the odds in your favor
  • Stop listening to the marketing
  • Trust only those who’ve been hurt deeply. They will be honest and real
  • Close it down, quit, move on, if that’s what it takes. Better to live to fight another, than die while still breathing

The Problem with Technology

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There are so many cool things about technology. To be living in this time you might feel lucky. If you’re someone like me, who lives with a chronic disease, your literal life may be impacted by the advancements technology brings. I am thankful.

However, there is a problem with technology.

As the advancement has moved at warped speed, so has the decline in the state of human beings. The state of:

  • integrity
  • wellbeing
  • economics
  • status quo
  • culture

The above 5 are just my mine. Would you add something to the list? Do you agree? Do you see the trend? Do you see the danger?

I met with a development officer from a local university a few weeks ago. The research group she helps is doing some really intriguing things in the world of diabetes care, more specifically finding a cure. Their work runs the gamut, from islet cell therapy to using 3d printing as a tool to further expand breakthroughs.

By the time she had completed her story, my head was spinning. It gave me hope and it made me pause.

What good is the work if beneficiaries are determined to kill themselves despite the prospects of a better day?

I told the development officer that some of the dollars raised should be used to fund solving the problem of poor choices. Its the 800 pound gorilla. Would solving that problem fix everything? I’m not smart enough to say, but it’s clear much of what plagues us inside our head would be improved dramatically.

This irony didn’t begin yesterday.