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When We Are Distracted

Photo Credit Roman Boed, Flickr9

I wish I had some really great opening sentence for this post, but I don’t.  I actually wish this was a really great post, but it isn’t.

Every year since that fateful day sixteen years ago, I have written a blog post to remember September 11, 2001.  These posts talk to memories, fear, kindness and safety.  It would be wrong for me to break with this tradition, even if I don’t have a whole lot to say this time.

This year feels different.  I’m distracted.  The date kind of crept up on me. Perhaps it is Harvey and Irma.  My mind has been everywhere except on remembering one of the worst days in living memory.

These hurricanes suck.

Harvey was beyond imaginable.  51.88 inches of rain is crazy.  To give you some perspective, that’s nearly twice the annual rainfall of Toronto, in one day.  But it has been really cool to see stories of friends, HR friends, rising to the occasion.  In particular, I’d like to give a shout-out to Franny Oxford, who has really supported her community during tough times.

The damage from Irma at the point of this post is unknown, but it has made landfall twice so far in the U.S., causing the seas to rush out, and expectedly, come back in with a vengeance.  I have many friends and family in Florida and those who sheltered in place who show pictures of downed trees, flooding and destroyed property.  And that’s just the U.S.  I can’t imagine the destruction in Cuba and the outer islands of the Caribbean.

Hurricanes make us vulnerable. We get so busy focused on picking up and rebuilding our lives that we fail to notice the signs of things that could be so much worse.

I want to live in the free world.  I want to live in a world without fear.  I will fight to keep this, if I need to. Our enemies strike when we are not looking.

One of the great legacies of September 11th was seeing the sheer volume of generosity and kindness that was displayed in the days, weeks, months and years following that day.  Already, North Americans are showing their kindness to those in need.  Whether Harvey or Irma turn into a Katrina is yet to be known but we’ve prepared.

Stay vigilant.

That is all.

July 4, 1976

I got up early, for me anyway, the morning of July 4, 1976. It was America’s Bicentennial and I wasn’t going to miss anything. It had already been a full few days, participating in the Kiwanis Bike Parade and the Woodstock Relays. Celebration was in the air. Patriotism at its finest.

Not long after I was up, my mom and I drove out to City Park and parked over near the pond. In front of us were dozens of fire trucks from Companies situated all over the county. You see, on the 4th of July that year they held the water fights. Water fights were the opposite of a tug of war. You had two teams, in this case teams of fire fighters, each on one side of a cement platform. In the middle was a large barrel. The goal was to keep the barrel from crossing onto your side, using the water pressure from a fire hose to hold your side’s place. I loved the water fights. My Godfather was a fire fighter and I loved to see him and his Company compete.

After a while of watching, I walked over to the pavilion. It was all decked out in red, white and blue. Uncle Bob told me I was allowed to get a drink from the giant trough filled with ice for free. The trough was always filled with my favourite, Jolly Time Grape Soda. I pulled the pop top, drank it quickly and read the joke on the bottom.

After several rounds in the tournament, we decided to walk up the hill to stake claim to our place to watch the fireworks. In all seriousness, in order to get a good seat, you had to go at least 10 hours in advance and call dibs. We had a picnic basket and a large blanket. We pretty much knew everyone around us. Our lunch consisted of tuna sandwiches, shoestring potato chips, Pepsi in a bottle with a straw, and cookies. Everyone in the vicinity helped the others to keep their places so you could leave for a bit and come back and your stuff would still be there. There was a small carnival on the other side of the fireworks platform, and once we ate, I walked over there to partake on a few rides. People were drinking beer in tents in a flat area near the baseball diamonds. There were games being played there all afternoon. There were bands in the park playing too.

By early afternoon, my mom took the car back home, in order to walk back out to the park later. You see there would be tens of thousands of people in the park after the fireworks were over and a one mile drive home probably would’ve taken 2 hours; it was much faster to walk. I stayed behind to swim.

The Woodstock Municipal Pool opened to the public at 1:00 every day. The pool was always busy but on the 4th of July it was a madhouse. But, all the regulars were there and I hung out with my friends all afternoon. By mid-afternoon, my mom was volunteering at the concession stand, selling pizza and pickles and Charleston Chews. By 7:00 we reunited and were socializing with our friends and neighbours in the area where the fireworks display would go. There were bands and more beer.

Before the fireworks began, a large plane flew overhead and a dozen or so parachuters jumped out and landed in the flat area at the bottom of the hill. But the fireworks, oh the fireworks. They went on for almost an hour. I remember the intense volume of the kabooms at the end, drowning out the marching band playing. And, I remember the long walk back home, running ahead, and once home, going out the 2nd floor window onto the roof to watch all the people walking by.

It was a Top Five day of my life.

Today is the Sesquicentennial for Canada. And while everything in Canada is always a bit muted compared to the U.S., I feel the same sort of party atmosphere as what I remember in 1976. To all my friends and comrades in Canada, I wish you great joy and happiness, and a Top Five day. Cheers!

A Question from Workhuman

The Canadian Contingent at Workhuman. Photo credit: Pam Ross.

What am I doing?

This is the type of question that can be interpreted in different ways.

As in, have I lost my mind?  Or,

How am I effecting time and space?  Or

How am I occupying my time?

This question (and its various interpretations) has come to mind several times while participating in Workhuman 2017.

I came to Workhuman to be inspired, to be ignited, to pursue action.  I love the folks who come to Workhuman and getting to hang out with them, even if briefly, is so worth it.

Workhuman is a conference about getting away from the stale and into things that are new.  It is not only about current thinking but also evidence-based reasons for change, the future. Last year I was overwhelmed and overjoyed by the focus on happiness at Workhuman.  After being armed with some new tools for bringing happiness to the workplaces I influenced seemed achievable.

Happiness is something that people can achieve individually and together.  There are many ways to achieve it. Following Workhuman last year my firm set out to start impacting happiness at our clients.  We introduced the concept of the need for happiness in the workplace in baby steps, like incorporating measurement questions about happiness into employee surveys, or discussing the topic at team meetings, or sharing websites and books about happiness.  I also got more public about the activities I was doing to support my own happiness including my nearly 1000 km walk on the Bruce Trail.

Then, early in the conference this year, it hit me, “What am I doing?”

Although in my happiness project I have been focusing in on me, perhaps because I needed it, focusing on me alone is not a great strategy for truly infectious happiness among those I interact with.  With regards to the promotion of happiness, and the adoption of tools for happiness, I need to be doing more.  And the things I am doing to be more happy have to be effective, or I need to try new things.

The first moment this came to me was when I was listening to to Christina Hall from LinkedIn talk about social recognition and employee performance. The data has indicated that performance increases exponentially by the number of recognition moments their employees received from their peers.  Just three recognition moments, increased performance of employees by 54%.  While performance and happiness are not exactly the same thing, they are correlated.

Then there is Michelle Obama.  She said many inspirational things but what I will remember most is, “Our goal must be to lift each other up.  It starts with us.”

So clearly, I need to be in the habit of recognizing of others.  And I need to be open to both feedback and recognition.  That notion of being receptive to feedback, and also encouraging others to give better feedback came to me during Adam Grant’s presentation when he and his colleagues read mean course reviews.  Enabling people to provide authentic and constructive feedback supports happiness across the entire population.

So changing, that’s what I am doing.