Sunday, December 24, 2006

You Either Don't Care or You're Afraid

There are only two basic reasons why people don't ask questions of other people - they don't care about that person's answer or they're afraid of that person's answer.

There could be lots of reasons you don't care. For example: I don't ask my company’s IT guy (Nick Burns; The Company's Computer Guy as I like to call him) anything, because I don't really care what his answer is, because I'm pretty sure I know more than he does. The tailgating jack-A behind me on the freeway? I don't really care what his opinion of my driving is.

There could also be multitude of reasons as to why you'd be afraid of someone else's answer. Maybe it would be insulting or the truth would be too hard to hear (this is more likely). I work for a small family-owned business (worst kind of business, too), the two co-owner brothers NEVER ask anyone what they feel is wrong with company. Are they apathetic or afraid? I haven't decided. They're both hugely egotistical, so maybe they don't care. Or maybe they don't want to have to deal with criticism (which is a neutral word that gets a bad connotation, by the way) because it would show that they're not as good as they see themselves.

This is true on a personal level, within relationships, whatever. One person doesn't ask important questions of the other because: they don't care or they're afraid of the answer.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Well, here we are in are winter wonderland. West Jordan is now blanketed by a good 6 inches (at my house anyway) of snow. I’ve always loved freshly fallen snow – the way it hangs on the trees and houses, the sensation of your ears and nose losing sensation. It is winter now.

As we get ready to lay another year to rest, I find myself in reflection of the events that have occurred. For me, I think this was a landmark year. I believe I have changed and changed for the better.

In the early part of May, I was involved in an accident at work. It was an experience that has changed the way I am viewing life, refocused my mental filters, if you will. We were taking down an event and I was struck on the back of my neck by a falling speaker stand (luckily NOT the speaker, an 80+ lbs. object). I blacked out long enough to not remember how I came to be laying, face-down, under a fallen projection screen. I couldn’t feel my feet, a sign that could mean a potentially dangerous injury. The paramedic crew carefully rolled me over (it took four of them and another four of my co-workers), restrained me to a backboard, fitted me with an extremely uncomfortable neck brace and I was whisked away to a waiting ambulance. My supervisor called my wife and explained the situation to her and informed her of the hospital I was to be taken to. Because Marcee works less than ten minutes from that particular hospital, she arrived before I did, which added to her worry because the emergency room staff had nothing to tell her. After I arrived at the hospital, I was subjected to the usual barrage of emergency medical tests for suspected spinal injuries – x-rays, having people push on your feet, try to figure out what the guy next to you is in for (it’s a mental test). The woman conducting the x-ray was a 5’2” Hispanic woman who, from what I could gather, had failed Gurney Driving 101, 102, and 103. She hit every wall, doorjamb, other gurneys. If I wasn’t seriously injured from my accident, this woman would ensure that the emergency room staff had plenty to do.

I spent a total of five hours strapped to that backboard and confined to that neck brace. In the end I was OK, nothing serious, nothing but a massive purple and black bruise and a VERY sore neck. I could have been paralyzed or worse. Marcee was OK as well.

As I’ve reflected on this experience, I’ve come to realize that, yes, our lives are very short. You never know when it’s going to be taken away or forever altered. You could be driving home tomorrow, get hit by another driver and spend the rest of your days peeing into a bag. You could be diagnosed with cancer or have a huge melanoma lump grow out of the side of your head. Life is too short to be bitter about little junky things or afraid to do what you want, because of what others might say. Quit complaining about things you can’t change and get off your butt and change the things you can. Teach your children that they have more potential than they will ever know, but only they can utilize it. Get over yourself. Live your life without looking back. Enjoy every day of your life.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Yes, I do have a U2-free iPod.

I'm a music lover. Ok, ok, I like the music I like and don't care about the music you like. I have always loved music. I have an eclectic collection of albums; rare, out of print, foreign releases, you name it. It's easier for me to list the music I don't like than the music I do like. My appreciatan stems from my playing a few instruments, I guess. In high school, I would spend the majority of my paychecks on music. After high school, I got bigger paychecks. Apple's iPod was made for people like me.

Because of this interest, people come to me with music questions. A friend once asked me to put together a "Must-have CD list" for him. The one question I get that makes me laugh is "how do you maintain a U2-free iPod?" I would compare it to keeping Windows XP virus-free. You have to work at it, constantly monitoring, checking and deleting the junk that comes from other people's collections. If you're on a network and other people are sharing their libraries, you have to be extra careful.

Some people (and tragically these citizens are allowed to vote) question me by saying "how can you NOT like U2?" It's easy. First you have to have values, you have to know that U2 has never produced anything of value, especially in the recent decade. Even if they (like so many other groups) had initially made worthwhile, entertaining music and then turned to crap, they haven't had a hit in years. They just keep playing the same rehashed, garbage-rock hey've been playing for too long. I would testify in a court of law, that it is better to listen to country, than U2, and it's better to be naked, bound and dipped, head-first, into a warm horse manure than listen to country.

Ultimately, it's up to each of us how we're going to contribute to society. Ask yourself, "Am I going to stand up for decent, talented musicians or am I going to keep calling the corporate entertainment toilet, er, radio station and ask then to put U2* on repeat?" (* or Maroon 5, or Cold Play, or Creed (shutter), or countless other garbage-rock groups).

"I have excellent new for the world; there is no such thing as Lounge music. It does not exist. It's just the polite thing to say when you were trying to explain that you not into the same old boring rock-n-roll, but you didn't dare say Barry Manilow because you were afraid of getting kicked out of the party. There's Musak, Modern Jazz, Latin, Swing, Calipso, Mambo, Samba and Polka. But Lounge doesn't mean sh*t."

Friday, December 1, 2006

How're your arms today?

In my line of work I have had the opportunity to meet interesting people, some extraordinary, some disappointing. I have worked with Wang Qishan, the Mayor of Beijing (delightful man). I have worked with Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Michael Eisner, Mijaíl Gorbachov, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Prime Minister of Turkey), Steve Young, Thomas Friedman, General Monty Meigs (ret.) to name a few more, plus countless internationally recognized celebrities and entertainers; almost to the point of becoming apathetic toward fame. In most cases I worked with these individuals in a setting where they shared with their audiences insightful and impressing information. From each of these I have tried to absorb something useful, something that would propel me closer to the caliber of person I wish to be. Yet I have found that the most valuable tidbits of wisdom don’t seem to come from builders of corporations or leaders of countries, they come where you’d least expect.

This evening I worked for a family who was hosting the funeral of their eleven-year-old daughter. I don’t know her cause of death, an auto accident I assume. From their stories you would know that she was a typical eleven-year-old; comical, serendipitous, loving and innocent. The memorial service had an equally melancholy tone because her younger brother was in a coma, I believe from the same event that took this young girl’s life. Despite these facts, or maybe because of them, the parents’ remarks seemed optimistic. I cannot fathom their sorrow and grief, but the strength they displayed was remarkable; continually praising God and acknowledging the support from their family and friends.

To me it was a lesson in attitude. A positive outlook makes all the difference. I know, I know, it sounds cliché, but what pushes a full, busy day over the line to a bad day? I find it interesting that the entire first chapter of the United States Army’s Survival Manual is dedicated to having a positive attitude.

I’ve worked with dozens of “Motivational Speakers” in the last eight years and I’m sure you could boil all of their material down to a twenty-five-page book about how a positive attitude is the key to success.

In closing, I hope the parents of the young girl find peace (if they haven’t already) and solace quickly and “that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of [their] bereavement, and leave [them] only the cherished memory of the loved and lost.*” For me, I feel fortunate to have observed the celebration of their daughter’s life.

Perhaps we could all do with a little cheerier disposition from day to day, maybe our lives will escalate to something better or maybe they won’t. I once heard Aron Ralston speak. He is the hiker who had to sever his own arm to survive. Ever since then, whenever I’ve had a stressful day I’ve thought to myself “well, things can't be that bad because I didn’t have to cut my own arm off today.”

* Abraham Lincoln