Inner Toughness vs. Outer Toughness

I hesitated on the title for this one. Not sure if “toughness” is the right word, but let’s roll with it for now. I also considered titling this, “Lessons learned from losing an intramural football game 79-6.” True story. That just happened.

Outer Toughness

It’s pretty obvious to spot.

  • Big muscles
  • Loud voices
  • Aggressive demeanor
  • Sometimes violent, physical behavior

If you’ve got any combination of those things going on, you’re tough, right?

Well, you think you’re tough. And you think that the people watching you think you’re tough. But all that really means is that you’re being loud, aggressive & violent. And very few would argue that’s frequently desired behavior.

The Instigator

We actually started our football game winning 6-0. I caught a long pass that brought us close to the endzone, and we scored on the next play. But it’s what happened after I caught the pass that I want to talk about.

[I should mention that it’s a two-hand touch, social league, that’s just as much about drinking beer as it is football.]

The opposing team member who caught me from behind, forcefully shoved me to the ground while we were both running full speed. I didn’t ask him directly, so I’m technically assuming here, but… let’s be honest, it was intentional. He caught me from behind at a 45° degree angle, cocked his arms at the elbow, then fully-extended them, sending a 170lb man flying through the air. 100% unnecessary.

He didn’t come up to me to see if I was OK. He didn’t seem apologetic. He actually started walking right back to the line of scrimmage to get ready for the next play. If it weren’t for me popping up quickly & extending my hand to shake his, he would’ve turned his back like it was no big deal.

No. Big. Deal. See, therein lies my issue with this. Sure, I could blame that one dude for what he did. But the problem stems from the picture our society has painted on toughness.

Duke students recently launched a campaign called “You Don’t Say?“. It’s goal is (from their official Facebook page):

The “You Don’t Say Campaign” seeks to raise awareness around the misuse of language that relates to the LGBTQ community and gender issues. These words dehumanize and marginalize many within the Duke community and beyond and it is important to understand why.

And while it is aimed at the LGBTQ community & gender issues, one of their posters reads:

I don’t say “MAN UP” because strength is not defined by sex or gender.

I agree. But it’s also not defined by aggressiveness, physicality, tone-of-voice or violence—whether it comes from a man, woman or someone who identifies with another gender.

Inner Toughness: Who Really “Manned Up?”

Do you think it was easy for me to pop right up & extend my hand to him? To shake his hand while saying, “It’s all good, man.” Heck no! I wanted to sit him down & figure out why he felt the need to do that, and explain to him there’s a much better way to handle himself in that situation. (Mom alert!)

But that’s inner toughness. The toughness to do the right thing, even when your emotions tell you differently. The toughness to show compassion. To understand a larger issue at hand, and not take it out on one person. And to hold back when you know your words and/or actions will only make a situation worse, no matter how relevant & sensible they are.

A Small Moment of Change

Any small retaliation on my part could have led down a slippery slope. The entire mood of the game could’ve changed for all of us. Aggression on my part could’ve led to even more aggression on the other team’s part.

I’ll never know how my actions truly impacted change—for the rest of the game, or for the rest of their day. But maybe, just maybe, someone on their team realized that true toughness comes from within.

Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/gbm1QS

Perfect Dave

Let’s clear the air right from the get-go. I’m not perfect. I don’t think I’m perfect. I would never consider myself as such.

Others, however… sometimes, I feel like that’s a different story.

Where’d this all come from?

Some background

Some friends of an ex-girlfriend of mine actually created an initialism. WWDD -or- What would Dave do? Whenever they needed help making a decision, they’d ask themselves, “What would Dave do?”… as if I made all the right decisions, and picked the greatest, nicest, most awesome way to handle every situation.

While I have my moments of greatest; I am a pretty nice guy; and I think I have a good bit of awesome in me… by no means should you always do what I do.

More recently, I’ve had a couple friends (2 women) label me as Perfect Dave. “You’re the perfect guy to date, on paper. You’re good at everything. You’re super-nice. You wouldn’t hurt a soul. You get along with everyone…”

What a great compliment, right? Well, in many respects, yes, that’s a compliment. But it’s one I could definitely go without. See if you can follow this logic:

I’m starting to think perfection doesn’t exist. And if I’m perfect, than I can’t exist. I must not be real. And if there’s only one quality I could use to describe myself to someone, it would be real/genuine/authentic. So clearly, “Perfect Dave” causes a dilemma.

Eliminating perfect from our vocabulary

In college, I remember attending a speaker who was discussing terrorism, it’s impact on society, how it’s perceived by different groups, and it’s impact on our society. I remember few details about the talk, but the one thing I took away was a challenge he presented us with:

Eliminate the word “hate” from our vocabulary.

I took him up on it, and have stopped using that word, in both written & verbal communication (with a few slip-ups, of course).

Now I’m considering giving up on the word “perfect.” Or at least in the context of human beings. It seems appropriate, as none of us are, or ever will be, perfect, so long as we’re human. And even those who choose to use the word as a descriptor, it’s so incredibly subjective that it describes something different for each person who hears it.

I can’t build a perfect website. Picasso can’t paint a perfect picture. Beethoven can’t arrange a perfect symphony.

I wrote a poem in high school English class called “Flawless.” It was about a fictional girl, whom existed only in my young, ignorant mind. It also happened to be one of the most embarrassing pieces of work I’ve ever performed in front of a group (A flawed version of “Flawless”?).

But everyone has flaws. Every painting, every symphony, every work of art, website, poem, design, presentation. All of these things, just like people, can be good. And some of them, great. But none are perfect.

Dating Perfect Dave

Is it possible? Is it… well… perfect?

I’ve had a few people tell me I can be intimidating. I didn’t spend too much time analyzing why, but I assumed it was mostly due to my confidence (which I didn’t always have, by the way. Got picked on and bullied in elementary & middle school.)

Very recently, I’m concerned that someone else is intimidated by me. At least that’s what she told me. She also told me she feels really comfortable around me, and has proven that through her actions, and how she has opened up to me. So if someone’s really comfortable with you, can she be really intimidated by you, too?

When you feel intimidated around someone, you often don’t act like yourself. You’re afraid to be who you are, say what you feel, and do what you really want to do. You second guess yourself. You hide. You take the easier way out.

And that’s EXACTLY the OPPOSITE way I want to see anyone live their life. Every interaction I have with someone, I hope that they can be themselves, and I encourage them to do so. I want them to feel comfortable around me, not intimidated by me. But how can you be comfortable when you’re talking to perfection?

Let’s talk about my mistakes. Let’s talk about the things that I’m NOT good at. Believe me, there are plenty. For starters, I’m an awful singer, and I just posted a karaoke video to prove it. And I found a karaoke track because another thing I can’t do (and I tried, took lessons even) is play an instrument. Any instrument.

Anyone can be decent at anything. There are things that some of us will never be an EXPERT at. But we can all learn new things. And with the right level of interest, practice & focus, you can become good at it.

I think people don’t give themselves enough credit. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of confidence. A lack of positive reinforcement from their peers. Or maybe a stricter stance on humility (or fear of being labeled arrogant or pretentious).

Please Stop

I’m hypothesizing here, but I had a friend (one of those 2 women who coined me “Perfect Dave”) tell me what she thinks is going on. She explained it really well because she felt the same way about someone else who wanted to date her. And her explanation resonated with me.

People (and in my situation right now… women) think that because I’m a really nice guy, good at a lot of things, etc., that I have such high expectations that they won’t be able to meet. And heaven forbid something should ever happen where it doesn’t work out between us, they’ll feel guilty because “Perfect Dave” would never hurt a soul, so it must be something they did.

I really hope that’s not it because it couldn’t be farther from the truth. And I have no idea whether any woman I’ve tried to date has thought that, or whether it has anything to do with my current situation.

But regardless…

  • Please stop calling me “Perfect Dave.”
  • Please stop assuming I’m some exceptional human being that lives according to an unattainable set of standards.
  • Please stop thinking that I hold others to unachievable expectations.

I never want to be perfect.

With all that being said, I shouldn’t even need to point this out, but it seems like a good way to wrap up. I never want to be perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist in the real world that we live in. Maybe in movies, videos games & virtual reality, but not in this life. Not in the here & now.

And if I’ve gotten a small glimpse of what it’s like to be perfect, trust me, no one wants to be that. It’s lonely. The conversation is superfluous. The interactions are a façade. Everything happens on the surface. And you’ll never experience anything real.

Not Homeless… Just Saying Hi – Follow Up

UPDATE: 2/26/2016: I’ve kept the original article in tact below, in its entirety, so everyone who reads this can learn from it. I have since drastically changed my thoughts on privilege, and openly & adamantly declare that I am incredibly privileged.

I highly encourage everyone to read the comments by two of my good friends, NB & Janice. Both are exceptional human beings, and I can’t thank them enough for their friendship, as well as the huge knowledge & experience bombs they dropped on me. I agree with both of their comments 100%, and you should absolutely read through them in their entirety.

I also thank John, the guy on Twitter who started this whole thing by calling me out for my ignorance. I write on this blog for a few reasons:

  1. For me, to reflect back on previous life experience
  2. To help others who might have similar thoughts, or just enjoy my perspective
  3. For everyone, to learn something new, or perhaps even change their behavior for the better.

My blog is called “An Alternate Route” because I do a lot of things out of the ordinary. Some are well thought-out; others, like this one, aren’t. But it’s that unique journey by which I learn and grow. And I thank you all for being a part of that journey.


Now that 2 days have past, I’ve had time to let it sink in, and hear some reactions from friends & strangers alike, I’d like to share this with you.

Interesting Twitter Response

John (on Twitter) writes:

john-sico-twitter-homeless-experiment

I think John follows Hilary. I don’t follow him, nor do I know who he is. Nonetheless, he had something interesting to say about my experience. I’d like to add my thoughts (in more than 140 characters).

Fun?

The goal of this was never to have fun. That wasn’t my intention, nor do I think it was Hilary’s intention when she first stood on the corner. We weren’t looking for fun, nor did either of us anticipate it would be a whole lot of fun. And now that it’s over, I still can’t say I had much “fun.”

So what was the goal? I’ll be honest, I didn’t think too much about it before I did it. I knew it would be uncomfortable, and most things that challenge us out of our comfort zone, end up building character. Aside from stepping outside of my comfort zone, I just wanted to raise my sense of awareness, and take in what happened around me.

I’d also like to mention that I specifically left off the words “Not Homeless” from my sign. Some really good friends of mine thought that might be offensive, and had the potential to really hurt someone’s feelings. Extremely valid point, and thus, I decided to leave it off my sign.

I recognized what I was doing was questionable. But if we all shied away from doing questionable things, our world would remain stagnant, and life would have no purpose.

Now that it’s over, my goal (or, really, my hope) is that it:

  • made people smile
  • will make people think differently about those standing on the corner, regardless of what they look like, why they’re there, or what they may or may not be asking for
  • gives people hope that there is tons of goodness in this world, regardless of what the media throws at us day after day
  • inspires others to step outside their comfort zone & put themselves in an uncomfortable situation, on the corner or otherwise

Privileged?

I looked up the definition. Variations include:

  • belonging to a class that enjoys special privileges; favored
  • having special rights, advantages or immunities
  • not subject to the usual rules or penalties because of some special circumstance
  • having the rare opportunity to do something that brings particular pleasure (as in, “I felt privileged to be able to _____.”)

I’m not sure what John meant when he called me a “privileged white dude”—especially since we know nothing about each other, have never met, etc.—but by definition, I would certainly not consider myself to be privileged.

I was raised by two loving parents, who taught me many important life lessons, supplied food & shelter, and paid for countless extra-curricular activities growing up, not to mention helping big time with college. And I realize that, to no fault of their own, many people don’t have access to these things growing up. So, perhaps in that sense, I am privileged.

However, those same parents also taught me to work hard for things. That I had to do work in order to earn allowance. I had to eat my vegetables before I could eat ice cream. Likewise, my coaches made me earn a spot on the team, with hustle & countless hours of practice. My employers put me through stringent interview processes with many other candidates before awarding me the job.

I’m not immune from anything. I play by the same rules, and face the same consequences, as every other citizen of this country. And I challenge anyone to bring to my attention a special right or advantage that I’ve been granted because of some special circumstance that I didn’t have to work for.

In terms of the last definition, “having the rare opportunity to do something that brings particular pleasure”… there is nothing rare about the opportunity to stand out on a corner, with a cardboard sign, smile & wave. Every person who has at least one arm could do exactly what I did (heck, even if you have no arms, get someone else to write it & lean it up against your chest from your wheelchair).

That’s the beauty of this challenge. The barriers to entry are about as low as they get.

White Dude?

I found it interesting that John used the words “white dude” to describe me. He may have meant nothing by it, but I interpreted it as an assumption that a majority of homeless people are some race other than white.

While there are sources out there that show african americans are more likely to end up homeless than whites, I found the historical stats & somewhat current stats to be interesting:

  • In the 1950s & 1960s, the typical person experiencing homelessness was white, male, and in his 50s
  • As of 2000… 44% single men, 13% single women, 36% families with children, 7% unaccompanied minors
  • As of 2000… 50% African-American, 35% white, 12% Hispanic, 2% Native American, 1% Asian
  • As of 2006, families with children comprise 41% of the homeless population
  • According to a 1996 survey…
    • 44% did paid work during the past month
    • 66% have problems with alcohol, drugs or mental illness
    • 38% say someone stole money or things directly from them
    • 30% have been homeless for more than 2 years

It appears, at least from the stats I could find, that a majority of homeless people in this country are non-white. However, 35% is still a decent chunk. And it does vary greatly based on geography (big city vs. urban vs. rural).

The two things that stand out most to me are: the number of homeless families with children and the percentage whom have had things stolen from them. And to think, the homeless guy who walked past me the other day actually tried to give me money.

Take what you want from these stats, but please think twice before assuming why, what or who is standing on the corner with a sign.

They might not be who you think, and it’s possible they’ve dealt with more than you can possibly imagine.

Thanks, John Sico, for the continued discussion. And Hilary, for having my back 🙂

Not Homeless… Just Saying Hi

Well… that was extremely uncomfortable, and fantastic, all at the same time. What an interesting experiment & rewarding experience.

First off, big thanks to my friend, Hilary Corna, for the idea/dare. I would have never thought to do this otherwise.

Not Homeless Experiment - Before Heading Out
Just before heading out. I ditched the jacket when I got to the street corner.

Here’s the recap of me standing on the corner for one hour, holding a cardboard sign that read,

“Just Saying Hi. Create a great day!”

By The Numbers

Not Homeless Experiment
A quick overview of my experience, by the numbers. For more in-depth commentary, read on past the list.

  • 60 – minutes spent standing on the corner
  • 10 – sips of water before I got the courage to hold up the sign
  • 5 – huge, deep breaths before I got the courage to hold up the sign
  • 1 – minutes before the first person waved or smiled
  • 2 – people who took a picture of me from their cars (that I’m aware of)
  • ~20 – car horns that sounded
  • 19 – car horns that sounded because of the sign. One lady was too focused reading the sign, she didn’t see the light change. And someone got impatient.
  • 1 – LOL, as in, laugh out loud. Yup. I heard her across 3 lanes of traffic.
  • 1 – person who dropped their phone (mid-conversation) to wave & smile
  • 2 – people who offered me money (1 of whom was [probably?] homeless, himself. See “Spare Change” below)
  • 2 – homeless people encountered & interacted with
  • 1 – times rejected when asking someone to take a picture of me (see “The Rejection” below)

Homeless Man Interaction 1 – Spare Change

Less than 10 minutes into standing on the corner holding my sign, a young man wearing a trash bag walked by (it was raining fairly hard for 1/2 my time out there). I said hello. He said hello back, as he passed. After getting 2 steps passed me, he stopped, and reached into his pocket. It took him a while before he pulled his hand out. Neither one of us said a word. When his hand emerged, he had about 50¢ in change. He was about to hand it to me, and then he saw what the sign said.

“Oh… you’re not doing this for money?,” he said, with a look of utter confusion. “No. Just for smiles,” I replied. His confusion quickly turned into joy, as he said to me,

“That’s probably the most optimistic thing I’ve ever seen.”

We exchanged ‘Have a nice day’s, and both marched on.

Homeless Man Interaction 2 – Working The Corner

About 10 minutes later, another man walked by. He was also surprised when I told him I wasn’t doing it for money. He had a cardboard sign of his own, and was actually planning to sit at the same corner & ask for money.

He said, “You’re not asking for money? You’re just doing it to make people’s day?” After replying yes, he asked if I would mind if he set up right around the corner, adding, “I’m trying to make a few bucks so I can eat.”

I told him I didn’t mind at all. Before he completely walked away, I was wondering if me standing there would help, hurt or have no impact on his efforts to make a buck. I said this to him, and he said he didn’t think it mattered, and that he’d be around the corner, where the cars couldn’t really see my sign.

I heightened my senses a little bit with him standing right around the corner. I had placed my jacket over a railing right by the intersection, and shortly moved it closer to me, up the road a bit, so I could keep an eye on it. I got a much different vibe from this guy than I did the previous man I spoke with.

Over the next 30 minutes, there were 2 times where he left his post, and slowly walked by me, as if he was leaving. Both times he slowed right as he passed my jacket. He was between me & the jacket, and each time this occurred, I looked back at him until he passed.

The first time he didn’t say anything walking by, but got only 5 steps passed me before turning around & returning to his post, saying, “I guess I’ll keep trying…”

After another 10 minutes went by, he did the same thing, passing me slowly, between my jacket & me. After getting 5 steps passed, he turned and said, “Do you know if it’s supposed to rain like this all night?” (Where’s Andrew Friedman when you need him?) Wishing I could be more helpful, I honestly told him that I just didn’t know. He then walked back by me, slowly, as if he was wondering or lost, and returned to his post yet again.

I tried my absolute best to judge this guy not based on the fact that he was homeless (or at least I’m assuming that’s why he was asking for money), but in the same manner I would draw assumptions about anyone, anywhere, in any situation—first, with keen observation, and then my gut feeling based on those observations. And I am confident that’s what I did.

The Kids

There were 2 times where parents were driving with kids in the car (under 10-yrs-old), and the kids rolled down their windows to wave & say hello. The parents also had big smiles on their faces, but they were no match for the kids’ elation.

Something about the kids’ enjoyment of it moved me more than any of the adults who showed their appreciation. I wonder how I would’ve acted as a kid if I saw that. Should we tip our hat to the parents of those kids, for raising happy, open-minded, outgoing kids? Or do we chalk it up to kids just being kids?

I do think there’s a certain ignorance that cannot be overlooked. Those kids have probably experienced very few, if any, homeless people on the street holding cardboard signs. They don’t jump to the same conclusions that many adults do, and that some people in their cars assumed about me… that I was standing on the corner, holding a cardboard sign, for one reason, and one reason only: to ask for money.

As adults, we’ve had more time to experience life. For some of us, this experience has opened our minds to incredible things, amazing people & some of the most beautiful acts of kindness the world has ever seen. For others, unfortunately, this life experience has infected minds with fear & pessimism.

It’s the same life we’re living. The only difference is how we choose to let it affect us.

The Ups & Downs

While the entire hour was very uncomfortable, I was caught off guard by how quickly & consistently my confidence rose & fell. I would get 3 honks & a bunch of smiles in a row, and the next traffic light cycle, 4 cars stopped, easily in view of the sign, didn’t even look over at me, even after a big smile and a wave.

There were definitely more smiles, waves & honks than there were negatives. There were some people who saw the sign & showed no reaction. Others neglected to make any eye contact. But I’d venture to say, of all the people who made some kind of effort to notice me, easily more than 50% smiled/waved/honked. Probably close to 75%/25%.

The Rejection

I’ve been shot down before (by colleges, my parents, prospective employers, conference organizers, girls, you name it). But never like this.

Nearing the end of my hour on the corner, a man was walking by with a small bag of something he had just bought, and an umbrella over his head. I (made the mistake? of) didn’t clearly show him my sign before I asked him a favor.

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind doing me a favor? Could you take a picture of me?”

His response was similar to that of millions of people around the world every day when they encounter a person on a street corner holding a cardboard sign. He barely glanced up at me, looked down to the ground & silently shook his head no.

Realizing there were very few people walking past me, I didn’t think I’d have many opportunities to get someone to take a picture of me. After the gentleman passed, and I realized he thought I was looking for something in return, I called out, “No, no… I’m just doing something nice. I’m not asking for money.”

He did acknowledge me again, very briefly stopped, and said [something like this, it was tough to hear him], “Yeah. Is that all?” But he turned right back around & kept walking. I tried to hold my sign in his direction so he could read it, but I don’t think he gave it enough time. Or he didn’t believe me. Or he just felt uncomfortable (if it’s that last one, dude should spend an hour in my shoes & then we’ll ask him about uncomfortable).

Sociologically Speaking

Did I wave at certain types of cars over others? Did I smile more at men, women, caucasians, african americans, BMWs, pickup trucks, etc.?

Who waved back? Were the young women just waving because they thought I was cute? (Sorry. Quick tangent for a little ego boost. Hey, after spending an hour on the corner, I can understand why someone might need a pick-me-up.)

As best I could keep track in my head, here’s how I would break it down.

  • An equal number of men & women showed a positive response
  • An equal number of white & black people showed a positive response (in total, there were probably more white people, but that’s only because of the demographic of the area I was in. There were a larger percentage of white people who drove by.)
    • Of the two homeless men whom I spoke with, the one who offered me change was black, and the one whom I had a bad feeling about was white
  • Type of vehicle didn’t seem to matter. I got positive responses from old cars, new cars, luxury cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, and even the UPS guy.
  • One of the few breakdowns where I noticed a lopsided response was age. While I got positive & negative reactions from both younger & older people alike, it seemed as though more younger people showed a positive response. And even those whom didn’t show a positive response, many more younger people put an effort in to read the sign (turning their head, looking over their shoulder), regardless of their reaction.

The Hardest Part

…might actually have been holding a smile non-stop for one hour.

The Gas Station & Walk Back To My Car

Before I started walking back to my car (about 2 blocks), I thought about giving my sign to the homeless guy who was still on the adjacent corner. He had a really small cardboard sign (not sure what it said). I don’t know if mine would’ve helped, or how he would’ve used it, but it would’ve been a nice gesture. The only reason I didn’t was because I still wanted a picture of myself holding the sign. I wish I trusted the homeless man enough to ask him—and believe me, I definitely thought about it—but my gut told me not to.

I stopped at the gas station on the next block/corner, and before I could even ask someone, a woman looked up from the pump, smiled, and said hello. She saw me on the corner with the sign a few minutes prior, and asked why I was doing it. I briefly explained, and then asked if she’d take a picture. She kindly agreed.

After the photo opp, one more gentleman approached. He was just making light conversation, also curious as to why I was doing it. We talked for a minute, shook hands, and went on with our evenings.

What Did I Miss?

Looking back, there are a few things I wish I had done.

  • Walked back to offer the homeless guy my sign. It was a tiny bit out of my way to walk back to the corner, but it could’ve made a huge difference.
  • Asked the 2 homeless guys there names
  • Walked a little farther up the street, away from the intersection, closer to where the cars were stopped. I was afraid they’d think I was asking for money (dumb excuse, I know), and just really shy/nervous to interact with people.

Next Time

…and there just might be a next time. I’d be interesting to switch things up a bit & perhaps try again. If I did it again, I’d probably either:

a) Bring a boombox, a friend (preferably Ellen DeGeneres) and a sign that says “Dance Off!”, and, well… dance.

b) Offer to give people something. Perhaps, a smiley face sticker, or a hand-written card.

So… would you give this a try? How might you approach it differently?

And yes, I’d 100% recommend you try it. Please be safe, do it on a well-traveled corner, in daylight, and let others know where you’ll be & when you’re returning. Use your best judgement if & when talking to strangers (yup, the same thing mommy taught you when you were 5 still applies).

Proliferation of Profanity

I’m looking at you, Mariah Carey & Miguel Pimentel. More generally, the entire music industry.

To be clear, there are many others, aside from the music industry, that are contributing to this ridiculousness, but seeing as how the music industry reaches hundreds of millions of people all around the world, and the artists choose to:

  1. Sell their music to millions of people
  2. Perform their music to live audiences of thousands of people

The music industry has an enormous influence on all of our every day lives. And every artist in the industry is a role model, whether you want to be or not. (“choosing” to be a role model is a whole ‘nother discussion)

So… the profanity

In Mariah’s new song, “Beautiful,” there’s absolutely no need for the adjective, f***ing.

…your mind is f***ing beautiful?!

And

…good lord, you’re f***ing beautiful?!

You could put over a dozen other adjectives in its place, and you’d have the same song, with the same meaning, same record sales & same popularity on the charts. Not to mention we wouldn’t have to explain to the kids why they skipped a word in the song on the radio.

Or you could just leave it out completely. You know, maybe, focus on the beautiful part.

More Than Music

It’s not just the music industry that adds to this awful proliferation of profanity. It happens in sports (locker rooms, on the court/field, etc.), movies, stand-up comedy, backyard bbqs & basic storytelling between friends.

It’s getting used way too much, way too easily, in way too many situations where it does nothing but make stuff worse. There’s nothing positive that comes from using unnecessary curse words. In fact, is a curse word ever “necessary?”

Unofficial Profanity

We’ve done such an awful job of letting other words spread throughout our culture, and get misused on the daily. “That’s gay,” and “You’re retarded” are only two examples of all the negative words we throw around without thinking twice about it.

Think about what you’re saying, people! Think about who it might be affecting. Think about who is around you when you’re saying it. Ask yourself if it adds anything to the actual content of your story/joke/song/etc.

I got news for you, Mariah. There’s absolutely nothing beautiful about dropping an f-bomb before the word beautiful. I don’t care how beautiful you are on the outside, that word is deep-rooted with ugliness.

Somewhat related: See Taylor Mali (spoken-word poet) show us all how to “Speak with Conviction”.

Hugs vs High-Fives

Sports Backers Marathon Training Team starts this weekend, and of all the things I could be thinking about, this is what popped into my head.

I spent 15 minutes on my car ride into work this morning analyzing the difference between these two greetings. While that might seem ridiculous to some, I did come out of it with a very important distinction.

Hugs create an inward energy, while high fives create an outward energy.

You hug someone when you want to embrace them, love them or show them support. It’s a type of endearment. You usually hug someone you’re very close with (love) or someone who may be having a bad day (support).

When someone is hugging someone else, the rest of us tend to look away. Why is that? I believe it’s because we recognize the action of hugging as a private one. It’s just about the two of them, and the energy is only meant to be shared by the two people involved in the hug.

But a high five is meant to be shared. It not only creates a positive energy between the two people who connect hands, but everyone around them who witnessed it also feels the energy. They don’t look away, but rather often join in on the fun. They may extend a hand, or try to high five someone else nearby. High fives can be contagious.

So why does any of this matter?

It’s important to understand the difference because at different times, people need one or the other. Knowing when to give a hug or a high five could have a huge impact on someone’s day.

Why do you think professional athletes high five, fist bump, chest bump & ass smack each other all the time? Because it sends a positive energy to the entire team. An energy that just might turn the momentum of the entire game around. I can almost guarantee you that a hug would not have the same effect.

And a long, embracing hug can quickly turn someone’s tears into a smile, and completely change the course of their day.

By all means, use them both. Use them both with friends, and use them both with strangers. But try to use them when they are most appropriate.

Everyone is a motivational speaker

In a recent email conversation, I was referred to as a motivational speaker. While it feels great to hear your name associated with that title, I immediately thought that was far from true.

Last week I “applied” for an audition to give a TED talk, but my 1-minute YouTube video hardly qualifies me as a motivational speaker.

But then I started thinking about what the qualifications really are to be considered a motivational speaker.

Just for a minute, let’s forget about all the typical stuff we associate with motivational speakers. Throw out the qualifications, the money that changes hands, the required experience, the stage, thousands of people in the audience…

Let’s just look at that phrase for what it is. It requires only 2 things to be true.

  1. Did you verbally say something that was heard by another?
  2. Did it make them want to go do something?

It might be as simple as you saying to a friend, “Hey. Let’s go to the gym tomorrow to get a solid workout in.” Or when a friend asks you what you think about this potential new job, and you say, “You’d be great at that.” Or when your buddy hasn’t had a vacation in 2 years, and you tell him, “Dude, maybe you should take some time off. You deserve it.”

I know what some of you are thinking. It’s just semantics. And some of it is.

But it’s about more than that. It’s about helping people realize that what they have to say is valuable. It means something. And to some people, it means a whole lot of something.

You don’t need a bunch of letters after your name to matter. You don’t need multiple degrees. You don’t need years of experience, a stage or an audience of thousands.

You just need to say what you have to say… from the heart… and mean it.

And if you can do that, then you, my friend, are a motivational speaker.

Powerful leadership vs. influential leadership

I discuss with myself the distinction between power & influence, especially when it comes to leadership styles. Although both can create change, I strongly prefer one over the other.

I’ve included several leadership ideas that I do hope you’ll try.

I had a great conversation with Danielle Durst the other day. For 90 minutes we discussed many topics, one of which was the distinction between power & influence, especially when it comes to leadership styles.

Each style can be used as a way of creating change, but Danielle and I agreed that one method is far better than the other.

Powerful leadership

Power has a negative connotation. Power is often associated with violence, greed, popularity & selfishness. When you think of powerful leaders, or just powerful people in general, they are often not the most well-liked individuals.

Powerful leaders make the decision for you. They tell you what to do. And if they get enough people to listen, they are successful in creating change.

One common idea that all human beings share is responsibility – in this case, the ability to choose our response.

Our resistance to powerful leadership

Our life is a series of choices, and with each choice, we face consequences. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. But one thing is for sure. We want to make our own decisions.

We are (and always have been) resistant to power. As a kid, when your mom exhibits power to get you to do something, you resist. You do the opposite just in spite of her. (well, that’s what some of us did)

Powerful leadership takes the decision out of our hands.

The powerful approach is tactically more difficult. You only have one person leading the charge. Everyone else is following along blindly.

Although tactically more difficult, it is often the more commonly used leadership style. An alternative is influential leadership.

Influential leadership

I prefer influential leadership. When you lead with influence, you put the decision back in the hands of the people. They get to choose for themselves. You just help steer them in the right direction.

This is emotionally more difficult because it requires us to relinquish control. We can’t be sure they will agree 100% with our beliefs. When you believe strongly in something, it’s often difficult to imagine things turning out any other way than how you had planned. This takes strength, patience & trust.

So how do you practice influential leadership?

Lead by example. Be there for people, especially when others are not around. Do the right thing. Smile. Exude confidence in everything you do & everywhere you go.

Listen. Take a step back. Let someone else have all the attention. Don’t speak, just act. Listen some more. Engage others in conversation. Ask questions, don’t provide answers.

There are many ways to practice influential leadership, and there is no one single recipe for success. I do hope you will give this some thought, and try a few things above. I believe it will make you a better leader.