What’s Love got to do with it?

The word 'Leadereship' highlighted in green with felt tip pen

Leadership is one of those topics that has been hashed and rehashed millions of times. There are a number of leadership styles ranging from the autocratic lone-ranger, to the democratic let’s take a vote, to the laissez-faire stand back and watch leaders. Beyond styles there are also a number of models that have  changed over the years. Leadership is a very complex topic with no “one” right way. Each model and style has strengths and weakness and we often work most effectively in the model and style that fits our personality. I do however want to mention one aspect that is often missing from the business model of leadership–and that’s love.

Now maybe you’re like Tina Turner and ask, “What’s love got to do with it?” When it comes to the business world, making money is what’s important. It’s the shareholder that matters. It’s getting the job done on time that’s important and I would say you’re absolutely right, but what’s the best means to that end. If we’re going to prosper and win, then why not do it in the biggest possible way. I would like to suggest to you that it’s possible to be financially profitable while enhancing the lives of others (Tweet That!) by using the vehicle of love. Below I’d like to list three benefits, beyond the mighty dollar, when we mix in a little of the underestimated emotion.

Firstly, I’d like to say that genuinely caring for those we lead is a great motivator (Tweet That!). One of the main roles of a leader is to provide proper motivation to those they are leading. I think caring for your team can be one of the greatest motivators that exist. Motivation is different for everyone. Some like a challenge, some like opportunity to move up, and then there’s always money.  But caring is free and it’s benefits go beyond any project or task.

We’ve all heard the quote, “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  The same is true for influence. As an employee I would go out of my way for a leader that I know cares for me and happily do what they ask. I would still obey an callous leader, but that obedience would come out of a respect for the role and not the person.  When working under a leader who could care less, it’s easy to do just what’s required. The former provides a greater framework for individual productivity.

Thirdly, creating a team atmosphere of caring among group members increases efficiency within the team. When people are happy their output is greater. If the individual will benefit from a caring attitude, then we can expect a greater synergy among the group. Can you imagine a team that is committed to one another? I’ve always believed that by helping others achieve their goals I would ultimately have my own goals fulfilled.

In the end business is business and it’s the bottom line is what drives it. I implore you to aim for a greater bottom line and mix in a little love.

5 Tips for a 25 Year Marriage

sadfaSome of the best marriage advice I received as a young man came from my pastor. He said if you want a marriage that lasts, then find someone who’s been married a long time and watch them. At the time the “Old People” in my life seemed really strange and I thought they’d have no clue how to face the current issues of my day, but I was wrong. These older couples may not have been experts in my culture or changing technology, but they did understand relationships and how to strengthen them. Today is my 25th anniversary, and now that I’m walking on the other side of the fence I’d like to offer a few tips of my own. Below are Five tips for a twenty five year marriage.

The first tip is to never say the “D” word. Divorce–doesn’t even sound good does it.  Debbie and I decided very early in our marriage that we would never say the word divorce.  No matter how mad we got or how tired we were we would not mention that word in an argument.  It was difficult at times and the word often popped into our minds, but it was never spoken.

It’s too easy to say things you don’t mean when you’re angry, and when you begin to throw the “D” word around you begin to think about it.  You begin to believe it.  Before long it seems like the only solution to your problem.  Instead of looking for reasons to stop being together, you should look for reasons to build your marriage.

The next tip is: don’t go to bed mad at each other.  I would be lying if I said I never went to bed mad at my wife, but I can say we made it a priority to resolve our issues before the day ended.  There are times when couples need a little distance, and some time to work through hard feelings, but when its all said and done we need to learn to set our emotions aside and communicate openly and honestly.

We still have fights after 25 years of marriage, but they look a lot different than when we were first married.  Arguments these days often last about 2 minutes.  I say what’s bothering me, she says what’s bothering her and we drop it.  I’ve learned to hear what she’s upset about and try to make changes and she does the same.  We don’t have very many “BIG” fights any more.

Always make sure to kiss each other goodbye.  You never know when your last kiss will be, and we’re not guaranteed of tomorrow.  And I’ll also add, on occasion throw in the 10 second kiss.  I won’t say much more….just try it.

Tell your spouse, “I love you” everyday.  One of the most basic needs of every human is to be loved, and it’s important you tell your spouse that you love them.  Try and think of the kind words you use as building blocks to your marriage.  The more nice words you use, the stronger your marriage will be, and probably the nicest thing you can say is, “I Love You.”

There are certain roles only a spouse can fill, and don’t allow others to fill them.  When we think if intimacy often times sex comes to mind, and that’s part of it, but only a small part.  Sex is one of those things that only your spouse fulfills.  That may seem obvious, but infidelity happens, so maybe it’s not as obvious as you would think.

Beyond sexual intimacy there are places in the heart that should only belong to a spouse.  I consider my wife as my best friend.  She listens to me when I talk.  She laughs at my jokes.  She makes corny comments like, “You’re sexy and I know it,” and just hearing her say it makes me smile.  If I were ever to allow another woman that place in my heart it would be wrong.  That place belongs only to her.

If you were to ask a hundred people what makes a marriage last you’d probably get 100 different answers, but these are a few of my top tips.  I’ll leave you with one final thought.  A marraige relationship is never complete.  You’re always pruning it, watering it, and working on it.

A picture may be worth more than a thousand words

a_picture_is_worth_1000_words_by_refrigeratorbingo-d465awbYou’ve probably heard the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, when it comes to your cell phone photos it might be more.  As most of you know, when you take a photo with a digital camera it will save the data from the image into a image file on the camera, and this file can then be copied to your computer or uploaded directly to a number of popular social media sites.  An image is made up of thousands or millions of little dots called pixels and the data file stores the location and color of each dot, but what you may not know is that these image files can contain a lot more information.

Some of the data embedded into this file might be things like: type of phone, lens used, exposure used, colors used, and even the GPS location where the image was taken, and with the right tools anyone in the world can view this information if it’s stored online.

Earlier today I took a picture with my phone, then uploaded it to a website that can extract this information to see what it would show.  The image below shows some of this data.

a1

 

So far, it’s not too bad, and many of the images you find online and on facebook will show no more info than this.  However, if an image is taken on a phone where geo-tracking is turned on, then the image file will contain the exact GPS coordinates, and this website will show those coordinates in google maps.  When I scroll down to the bottom of the page this is what I see.

Untitled-4

 

Wow, now that is revealing.  With google maps,  you can zoom down to the exact house where the image wast taken.  I have edited the image above so that you won’t know my exact location, but the point is, you could unknowingly be putting unwanted info about yourself on the internet.

There is a bit of good news though.  It is possible to turn off the geo-tracking on you camera.  It may be different for different cameras, but on an android you need to start the camera, then open the settings, then uncheck the icon that looks like an upside down tear drop.

Screenshot

Liar Liar White House on Fire

I’ve noticed over the years that people lie.  I’ve seen children do it, little Billy who ate the cookie on the counter and told his dad he didn’t.  I’ve seen married people do it, no honey, that outfit looks great on you.  Some lies are bold and blatant.  Some are tiny, little bitty white lies…if even such a thing exists.  Sometimes lies can come by omittance.  Regardless, we don’t much like lies when they are told to us; we expect honesty.  Honesty is a virtue.  It is a character trait and a value that is up-right and good, and it’s something we should all strive for.

There are also certain professions that we hold to a higher level of integrity.  For example, we all expect pastors to be honest.  I find it funny and sad at the same time, but when I was studying to be a pastor, I recall one specific test that was particularly difficult.  I sat in the back of the class because it was easier to get out the door when the bell rang, and the future pastor sitting next to me asked if he could look at my answers.  We expect our doctors to be honest.  We want an accurate account of the status of our health, and I definitely don’t want a doctor that cheated on his tests to be operating on me.

We also want our public leaders to be truthful with us, and especially the high office of president.  I do understand the scrutiny that leaders go through today, and especially those on the world stage.  Every thing a leader says is recorded, watched, re-watched, and then criticized by millions of viewers.  It’s easy to misspeak.  I don’t really want to say that lies coming from public leaders hurt us more, because there’s nothing quite like being lied to by someone close to us, but I will say that lies coming from a public office seem to degrade society more.  I’ve put together a few of the public lies from my generation….check them out:

Here’s a clip from George H. W. Bush giving a promise on the campaign trail. Nobody likes taxes, but I’ve got to admit, how in the world can you expect anybody in public office to keep a promise like this.  It’s not good to promise things you cant keep.

 

Here’s probably one of the most famous lies of my generation.  President Bill Clinton lied about a relationship that he had with a White House intern.  This was a very blatant lie.  The president new exactly what he was saying was wrong, but to be honest, many people seemed to ignore it.  Several that I talked to said that it was a private matter, and did not affect his role as president.

 

The following lie has been brought to public attention in the past few weeks.  It is also different from the two former lies (a stupid promise, and a personal issue).  This was a sneaky lie.  It was an intentional deception and twisting of facts to get a specific piece of legislation passed.  President Obama was a community organizer, a lawyer, and a Harvard constitutional law professor; this wasn’t just jumbled words….PERIOD.

 

Richard Nixon was the president in office when I was born.  While I don’t remember this lie personally, I do remember hearing about it when I was young.  President Nixon lied about the watergate scandal and almost became famous for being the first president that was impeached, but he resigned before it could be done.

 

I had to throw this guy in just for good measure.  Here’s Rod Blagojevich a governor from my home state of Illinois.  It would seem that the governor’s seat in Illinois is notorious for producing felons.  Four of the last seven were convicted and imprisoned.  After watching this scandal a few years ago, I just shook my head.  Governor Blagojevich really seemed clueless.

 

The Intern

The InternOne of my favorite past times every summer is to float down the Current River.  This past year we had a new intern join us.  This is the story of that trip.

I’m not sure if you remember that place where tiredness meets imagination, but I found it a few nights ago in a tent near Jadwin Missouri. It was a cool evening and coupled with a long day of oaring on the Current River and a world class game of volleyball the day before I fell asleep quicker than a baby with a bottle of Nyquil.

I wasn’t dreaming, just sleeping hard when I was jarred to consciousness by a voice screaming in the night, “NOW!”

I opened my eyes and listened in the darkness, but all fell silent again…well mostly. There was the muffled sound of people talking nearby, Call me maybe playing on the community iPod, and the sound of either a sick duck or injured frog that would not shut up. I closed my eyes again and listened.

“INTERN NOW,” Chris bellowed out again.

I had to chuckle. The poor guy. The intern. Colin had to be tiring of that phrase, but if he was it didn’t show. I thought about what the next day might bring, but the sandman hadn’t traveled far and I was soon asleep again.

The next morning brought with it a few early risers, but most loomed around like extras on the set of The Walking Dead. It wasn’t until Captain Ron broke out the brown sugar and bacon that the rest of the group emerged from their tents. The Intern was one of the last ones to belly-up to the table, but not even he could resist the smells that came from the big black cooker.

There’s a point in everyone’s career where they really begin to connect with others, when you go from being the intern, to being the INTERN, and Colin found that place about half way through the float at the top of a 30 foot cliff.

The chant started slowly with just a couple individuals, “Intern. Intern.”

I can only image the rush of endorphins that ran through his body as he stared down at the little stream below. His heart raced. His time at Dot Foods flashed before his eyes. “Intern. Intern. Intern.” More people joined in on this catchy little phrase.

Was it really worth it, to risk his life for this group of half-cocked IT professionals? The shouts began to roll down through the entire valley. Old men, women, children, Jager the stuffed dog, and even people who didn’t know this guy joined in. “INTERN. INTERN. INTERN. INTERN.”

Colin stepped to the edge and jumped. In a fraction of a second he rolled forward into a full flip as his body hit the water. When he came to the surface, the crowd erupted in shouts and applause.

To the rest of Dot Foods he will be known as Colin the college student, but to those of us who brave the waters of the Current River every summer, he will forever be remembered as THE INTERN.

A bit about writing

Writing is a three-legged-table. The first leg of character develop helps the reader relate to your characters. They can see them grow (or degenerate) as the story moves along. It is critical that the characters have flaws…people relate to human faults.

The second leg of writing is plot. This tells your reader what happened. For example we see Luke Skywalker lead his father back to the good side. In Lord of the Rings we see Frodo’s struggle with the ring and Aragorn’s decision to take his place as king.

The last leg is called World Building. World Building is the act of putting together a setting in which your stories take place, weather that be middle earth or a galaxy far, far away.

As you begin to write, think about these three things, and reveal a little more about each to your writer.

Writing to remember

Communication-SkillsA memory conceived among many senses will not be easily forgotten (Tweet That!).  The goal of communication is to deliver a message to a recipient in a way that it can be received and comprehended, but I think communication should go beyond that.  We should communicate to be remembered.  If it’s worth saying, it’s worth remembering.

Memories are more than words and concepts, they are life experiences.  Try thinking of an emotional event in your, life like an argument with a close friend. You probably remember it more in terms of how you felt than the words that were said.

Have you ever gotten sick while eating a certain food?  Once, when I was a teenager, I got extremely intoxicated.  I was so out of control that my mother gave me a bath and I didn’t know it. That’s probably a good thing. I still have no memory of what happened to me that night, but I remember how I felt.  For years the smell of any alcohol would make me sick.  The reason I remember it so well is because the event is tied to several senses – smell, taste, touch, etc.

I’ve had many opportunities throughout my life to speak before various groups. I’ve spoke at churches, community settings, in front of children and adults.  I enjoy speaking and writing, and helping others understand things.  When I speak to a group, I try to employ methods that will touch as many senses as possible.  I was speaking some years back on the topic of sharing and half-way through my speech I had a pizza delivered to the podium.  I stopped for a moment, paid for the pizza, picked up a slice, took a few bites, and began speaking again.  Seven years later someone approached me and said, “Hey I remember that time you spoke, and gave me a slice of pizza”.  Why did they remember?  Because they heard, they saw, they touched, they tasted, and they could smell what I was saying (Tweet That!).

This same principle applies to us as authors. You may not be there when the reader picks up your piece, but you can trigger memories they’ve stored away.  Don’t just tell them what happened; drop your reader smack dab in the middle of a scene (Tweet That!).  Let them experience your writing through their memories.

Worldbuilding

Lunar_baseIf you’re unfamiliar with the term “World Building” you might get a mental image of huge machines covering the surface of a dead planet carving rivers, planting forests, and pumping oxygen into the atmosphere.  Truth is—that’s not far from reality.  World building is the art of bringing to life an imagined world through descriptions, back-story, maps, drawings, and other creative means, and is one of the greatest tools a science fiction writer has for adding depth to a story.

World building is a huge topic, and there have been many books and classes discussing it, but in this article I plan to give you just a few brief thoughts on the subject.

First and foremost, let your world building be an enjoyable process…it should be fun.  Much of the writing you do will have several reads and rewrites.  The kind of stuff that you review, review, hand it to a friend to look over, and then review again, but your world building document can contain raw ideas.  You don’t have to worry about getting everything perfect; if you have some dangling modifiers, misused semicolons or run-on sentences it’s ok.  This document is yours, and nobody will ever see it, so give your eraser a break and let your ideas flow.

With that said, don’t go crazy.  You need to give your world building ideas some organization so you can find the information you need when you need it.  I like to keep my ideas in a three ring binder with tabs for subjects like: places, species, and organizations.  On some pages I have hand-drawn maps and diagrams, on others I have typed notes, and still on others I have tables full of terms and definitions.  This also allows you to shuffle your pages around, and add or remove them if needed.

Keep informed on scientific facts.  One thing that ruins science fiction quicker than anything else is incorrect or inconsistent information about the world your story takes place in.  For example, it’s probably not the best idea for your story to take place on a planet that orbits a pulsar; it would be difficult for life to exist in such a hazardous place.  Your readers will pick up on mistakes like this, and your story will lose credibility.

Make sure your facts are consistent.  If your planet orbits a yellow star at the beginning of your story, make sure that you don’t call it a brown dwarf later on.  Inconsistency will cause your story to fall apart, and the reader won’t be able to paint a coherent picture of your world.

Brainstorming often follows writing.  Sometimes as I put my ideas to paper, or the binary ones and zeroes of my computer’s storage system, I’ll have an idea for some new aspect of the world I’m writing about.  I’ll immediately jot that idea down along with all its associated facts to keep things consistent throughout the entire story.  Later on when I write of that idea again, I can review my summary and keep things straight.  It would be bad to have a species described with five legs in one place and four in another, or a character with no siblings at the start of a story, and an older brother half-way through.

Finally, be complete…think about things like culture, history, geography, languages, and why the world is the way it is.  The more content you put into the brainstorming document, the easier it will be writing the stories that happen there.  If you’re writing about a species that has three sexes, then describe the family unit.  What roles do they have?  Do all three work to support the family?  If two of the parents are allowed to work, how would that affect their income?

When creating your world-building document consider the butterfly effect.  If a butterfly flaps its wings on earth, does it cause a hurricane on Mars?  Things are deeply connected, and one tiny action may have large repercussions in other systems…so think it through completely.

If you’re interested in creating unique places and things check out rabiki.com and see worldbuilding in action.  Come be a part of a community of creative individuals and build your world.

Death of Science Fiction

sf1My fascination with science fiction started when I was six—I’ll never forget the excitement I felt as I watched X-wings and TIE fighters scream across the screen, followed by the roar of engines and blaster bolts exploding against metal.  I wish I still had my Luke Skywalker and Momaw Nadon action figures.  They would probably be worth a lot today, but I think they gave me my money’s worth.

I’ve noticed a trend away from science fiction over the past 20 years, and a decline in quality movies for the genre.  I’ve been disappointed far too many times by poor quality stories.

On one occasion as I walked through the sci-fi isle of my local video store, a new movie cover caught my attention.  It had an image of an earth-like planet completely enveloped with jungle vines, and it was titled Savage Planet.  Sounds pretty cool huh?  I was excited.  I rented the movie, made some popcorn, put my feet up, and got ready for a nice movie.  You’ve heard it said, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  Well I say, you can’t judge a movie by its cover either.

This was one of the cheesiest movies I’ve ever seen.  It was about a group of people who discovered a way to transport to another earth-like planet.  When they arrived, they were all systematically hunted and killed by gigantic mutated bears.  Yes, you heard me right…bears.

I’m not sure what was worse, the horrible storyline or the cheaply filmed video.  With movies like that it’s no wonder some don’t enjoy sci-fi.

Science fiction is hard to define.  It has several sub-genres, and it covers a variety of topics like time travel, space exploration, cybernetics, alternate histories, etc.  I’ve heard it said that sci-fi is like pornography, it’s hard to describe, but you’ll know it when you see it.  My simple and broad definition of science fiction is this:  The stories built on or around undiscovered advanced technologies.  .

Good science fiction will always be based on good stories.  The Star Wars saga is not about light sabers, star destroyers, aliens, or the Death Star.  It’s a story about one man’s fall and his son’s struggle to save him.  Don’t mistake the setting as the story.  World-building is an important part of writing—create a separate document describing the world your story takes place in, and fill it with all kinds of detail.  Be specific.  I like to use a three ring binder with tabs for different topics like species, planets, history, cities, characters, etc.  This document is for you, and it’s not your story.  Use it to set the scene, but make sure the story never gets lost in the details.  Reveal only enough to make it believable, and let your story do the rest.

Another factor that makes writing sci-fi difficult is the rate of scientific discovery.  What we grok about our world has grown exponentially over the last hundred years.  There is only one constant…things will change.

Isaac Asimov, one of the twentieth century’s greatest contributors to the genre, was not exempt from this problem.  Several of the short stories in his book Robot Dreams are built around a super intelligent computer called multivac that filled an entire room, and used punch cards.  It was state of the art at one time, but who knew in 50 years a computer that powerful would fit on your wrist.  Things are changing much faster today, which makes it more difficult to predict the technologies of the future.

No…this is not the death of a genre…sci-fi will not disappear.  As long as we have children fly their imaginary rockets to the stars, as long as we have creative individuals willing to share their imaginations, and as long as we have people who can dream the impossible, science fiction will flourish. I love this genre and challenge you to be creative.  The possibilities are endless, and a canvas as broad as the night-sky awaits the aspiring galactic calligrapher.