Friday, May 28, 2010


I have a theory. More and faster and instant communication portals and devices do not make us better communicators. We just have more and faster communication portals and devices.

The origins of my theory this morning: I have a contractor completing a year-long project at my home who is getting quite lazy and we are literally 6 hours from completing the job. The last few months have been horrible trying to get his attention on finishing the job. I make a phone call to the business number. Voice mail. I make a phone call to the contractor's cell phone. Voice mail. I send a text to the cell phone. No answer. I send an e-mail to the business. No reply. FAX. Nothing. E-mail marked urgent. Nothing. Contractor drops by unannounced. Promises to come back Friday. No show Friday. No call. No text. No e-mail. It is an endless loop of communication devices. Until recently, these modes of communication worked just fine.

No doubt, I am frustrated by this situation with my contractor (a bit cranky, really). And the M.I.A. contractor is one example of millions in a day. I also notice people texting others while sitting around a table together. I notice the commuter train filled with loud conversation on cell phones; no one is talking to one another. I notice pedestrians walking down the streets having animated conversations into cell phones. I notice an inordinate amount of time spent in front of a computer screen. I notice 90% of all connection with any charity is via an electronic communication. There is a lot of connectivity without much meaningful connecting.

None of the technical access points available to anyone make a difference if the users of the devices aren't committed to the people generating the words being communicated. We're so busy being connected that we become more disconnected. Our lives have devolved into 100 letter status updates and not to fulfilling promises, obligations, contracts, agreements. What would it be like to spend less time managing the number of messages and devices and more time managing the relationship with the person on the other end of the device? In other words, it's not the managing of the message or the device that matters as much as managing the relationship with the messenger and recipient!

I am not device-phobic. Really. They come in really handy at times. Many times. What I notice though is that when we lose the human connection with one another we are not nearly as engaged, committed, present, or successful. We hide in the transmission (or exchanges) and the more devices that exist between people, the more places to hide. There is a huge paradox here: The more connected we are the less connected we are. The relationship becomes about how often and in how many ways we miss one another and not actually those times we connect.

Our lives, our relationships, our businesses, our organizations, our boards of directors, our communities, our friends, our kids...we fail when we forget that the device is merely the conduit for people to connect. It's the relationship that matters! Isn't it funny that the now vintage telephone service advertising said to "reach out and touch someone" and there was no reaching or touching involved?

How important is technology to you? What are your core "technology" values? What do you do to manage and balance the real and the virtual worlds in which you live/work? If you rely upon technology to communicate, what do you do that makes the communication effective? Authentic? Connected? What would be possible if we unplugged just a bit?

NOTE: Contractor has never returned to the job and has been replaced.

Enjoy the day!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Love, Sister

Sitting in the boat with my son, comfortably in the driveway!

One year ago I was given a boat for my birthday by my sister. So much for gift cards! Notice the name of the boat?

It is a sweet 18 foot power boat that will be moored right in front of my home for the summer season. In the ocean...with daily tides...and Nor'easter storms...and hidden rocks that reveal themselves when the tides go out. What might be a fun experience for experienced boaters feels terrifying to me. I am out of my comfort zone entirely. And determined to make it work!

So this is what I make up:
  • New opportunities may require learning new skills. Lots of them.
  • Sometimes fun is not easy.
  • Owning a boat requires relying upon others with expertise. Doesn't most anything require leaning into others?
  • Boating has its own language and culture. Parts of the vessel, laws and courtesies of the sea, deep history. Foreign languages can be learned and cultures can be adopted.
  • There are GPS devices, sonar devices, maps, and the power of observation available to me to avoid rocks in the way. My fear of the rocks may be bigger than the rocks themselves or my ability to navigate around them.
  • Storms come and go. Like just yesterday. A big wind event with hours of drenching rain. And today, sun! Anchor and cover the boat securely. Automated bilge pump is in place. Be patient. Be prepared.
  • This boat has a singular purpose--having fun. Sweet return on the investment.
  • What I am afraid of now, will be familiarity later. Fear will give way to caution and then awareness.
No doubt, having a boat can be a powerful metaphor for life, relationships, work, family, teams, organizations. Each day I look out at the boat I am reminded of this fear I have and what it takes to feel more comfortable, to be in relationship with it (the "it" in this case is the fear, not the boat). Being in relationship with my fear and using my fear as a place to begin growing and learning is not easy and humbling. It's the big goal--having fun on the water!--that keeps me in the game.

The boat is my teacher today. What teaches you something of value in your world? Find a metaphor and play with it!

Thursday, May 6, 2010


In a recent coaching session a client wondered to herself out loud: "What would I leave this state of bliss for?"

Oh, the places that question can take you. What would you leave your current state of being for? What's there that you don't have/feel/see/want here? What do you know about your personal bliss? What matters to you about it? If not bliss, what?

Have a look!

Monday, May 3, 2010


My community north of Boston has been included in the emergency restricted water use program since Saturday evening. The report is that the main water pipe supplying fresh water to 2 million people in over 700,000 homes broke. The flow to the broken pipe was stopped and now untreated water from a different reservoir is flowing to the affected homes and businesses. Since the water is untreated, it must be boiled or otherwise treated prior to consumption. Lake water is better than no water, I suppose.

Within moments of about 6:30 PM Saturday there were automated phone calls from the town, emergency "crawls" across the bottom of the television screen, Facebook postings, text messages, and a wide range of other delivery systems describing the end of the world. And we were so calm. The secret? Be prepared.

Our process was pretty straight forward: Gather the one-liter plastic water bottles from the cabinet. Go to the cupboard and get the water purifier device as well as the water purification tablets leftover from our backpacking trip across India. Begin a system of boiling tap water in the tea pot and filling all available pitchers. Place anti-bacterial gel dispensers on counters and in bathrooms. Briefly collaborate with teenage son about a healthy protocol over the next few days (weeks?). Be prepared.

And so far, it has been a breeze. The only complication is remembering not to drink water while in the shower spray.

I was raised in earthquake-ridden Los Angeles where having your "earthquake kit" supplied and ready to go was a fact of life. While you could not do anything about the earthquakes themselves, you could manage your life, your safety, and your survival if you were adequately prepared. Back-up food supplies, bleach, blankets, first aid supplies, the car always adequately gassed up, spare cash, a transistor radio, an emergency call/evacuation plan...very straightforward. I can recall sitting on the rubble of my home in 1994 moments after the infamous Northridge Earthquake, only a few miles from the epicenter, boiling up a pot of tea while assessing the damage and waiting out the aftershocks. The pre-dawn quake was quite terrifying but the aftermath didn't have to be. Be prepared.

So what? Well...what if restricted water use was simply a metaphor for "emergency" or "things will happen that are out of your control" or, as my house contractor likes to call the "Oh, s**t moments"? How prepared are you for managing the really important emergencies in your life, the kinds of emergent issues that are really, vitally important? What does ease look like in moments like this? How do you keep yourself together?

And beyond the impact of broken water mains or earthquakes, think about the catastrophes of life and living: A broken heart, a sick body, an unplanned divorce or employment disruption...increase in college tuition, the roof leaking, a board chair resigning, a major event being rained out...the economic recession, volcanic ash in the air canceling air flights, a war...a death, a birth, a diagnosis, a crisis of faith. Anything can (and will) disrupt our lives and escalate into a major crisis if we are not mindful of preparation and holding the value of ease.

Anticipate. Plan. Anticipate. Plan. Ease.