FOUR QUESTIONS I ASK MYSELF ABOUT 2017

Very soon, 2017 will be history. Now is a good time to assess how you did. If we never pause to assess our performance, we might forfeit valuable lessons. With that in mind, here are four questions I challenge you—as I challenge myself—to ask concerning 2017:

  • How did you do in your business performance? Reflecting upon all the professional roles you have held, how did you perform? Did you do your job with energy, accuracy, enthusiasm, and insight? By reflecting upon your business performance, you can bask in some well-deserved affirmation of the highlights. You can also reengineer your business approach where some fine tuning might be needed.
  • How did you do in your ethics performance? Did you stand tall and true to your ethics regardless of the cost? By reflecting upon those times when your ethical commitment was put to the test and it stood strong, you can rejoice in your victories. You can also rethink your approach to ethics if you found yourself coming up short for any reason.
  • How did you do in your leadership performance? Did you exercise strategic and sound leadership in every situation that demanded it? By reflecting upon your various leadership situations, you can affirm your leadership where it was tested and found to be solid. You can also identify those situations that may have revealed some leadership deficits and begin seeking ways to improve and refine.
  • How did you do in your personal performance? Did you exhibit maturity, passion, strength, and wisdom as you managed your attitude, money, opportunities, relationships, loved ones, spiritual or religious convictions, physical fitness, emotional and mental fitness, and overall wellness? By reflecting upon your personal performance in these areas, you can take comfort and joy where you know you brought your best self to the table. You can also take a hard look at any of those areas in which you know deep in your heart that improvement is needed.

These four questions are revealing. If you enjoy your answers, I am happy for you! On the other hand, if you are unhappy with the answers to any of these questions, then some thoughtful, soul-searching realignment is needed.

Now for the especially exciting news: you have the power to make the needed changes. Our failures are only meaningless if we do not learn from them. Let us learn from them so we can make 2018 the best year ever!


ANSWER THE PHONE

About a hundred years ago, if someone told you that a device would be placed in your home that would randomly sound an alarm at any time of the day or night and that you would drop whatever you were doing to devote your full attention to that device, you probably would have said “you’re crazy!” It would have been a relatively short time after that conversation that we all began to have telephones in our homes. But now, they are not just in our homes, we carry them with us constantly.

We’ve become addicted to our phones. Well, if you prefer, we’ve become dependent on our phones. Exactly when and how does dependence transform into addiction, or does it? How can you tell the difference? Is it necessarily a bad thing?

The advent of every new technology always brings both good and bad. Usually the good far outweighs the bad. Nevertheless, that does not excuse us from mitigating the bad. And that is a mission to which we should remain relentlessly committed.

One of the most important developments in this fight is with children’s access to smartphones. How old should a child be before he or she is granted the freedom to use a smartphone? Susan Dunaway is a cofounder of the Amend Neurocounseling clinic in Overland Park, Kansas. As reported by Rick Montgomery, Dunaway has some insightful observations to share about this issue (“A Movement Grows to Keep Kids from Smartphones Until the Eighth Grade”, The Kansas City Star, pp. 1A, 17A):

Years of online overstimulation ‘acts on the brain the way cocaine acts on the brain. . . .

Too much dopamine is released. . . . Those pleasure centers should be going off once in a while. With screen time they’re going off constantly.’

As developing brains are most vulnerable, Dunaway said smartphones may be producing a generation prone to inattention, restlessness and bursts of anger when desires aren’t quickly met.” (p. 17A)

I believe most of us have literally watched this occur. We owe it to our world to promote the positive use of technology among all ages, but especially among developing children. Technology is marvelous, but let’s use it correctly at every opportunity.

All this compounds exponentially when we recognize the constantly growing incorporation of artificial intelligence into technology. AI is already inserting itself into numerous human-to-machine and machine-to-human interactions, often without our awareness. This trend will only accelerate as Frank Malcolm, Paul Roehrig, and Ben Pring affirm in their recent book, What to Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2017):

Within the next few years, AI will be all around us, embedded in many higher-order pursuits. It will educate our children, heal our sick, and lower our energy bills. It will catch criminals, increase crop yields, and help us uncover new worlds of augmented and virtual reality.” (pp. ix–x)

The authors also make a forebodingly accurate statement about the ubiquity of AI within our daily devices:

Once we start using them we stop thinking about them.” (p. 1)

And therein lies the danger. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for the ongoing advancement, application, and use of our incredibly brilliant and powerful technologies on every front. However, let’s see if we can start using them while still thinking about them. That thinking about our overall interaction with smartphones, the Internet, and technology is what should raise many interesting questions that demand serious answers. Understand, I for one do not claim to have all the answers. Nevertheless, that should not stop us from engaging the questions. Here are some of those sobering questions to get you started:

  • Are we studying how we psychologically interact with technology as much as we study technology?
  • What are the short-term and long-term effects of technology?
  • What damage is being done by the bad effects of technology?
  • Is Google making us “brain stupid” or is it genuinely answering our questions faster and better thereby freeing our brains to attack more complex challenges?
  • How will we improve our ability to use the Internet to extract all its positive benefits while mitigating its negative effects?
  • Has the rate of technology development outpaced our human ability to adapt to it, and if so, what can we do about that?
  • Have you stopped thinking about them?

Your phone demands an answer and so do these questions.


GRATITUDE REALLY IS BEST

We all know that emails can be concluded with any kind of wording or signoff the composer desires. However, it turns out that some signoffs elicit better response rates than others. At least that is the conclusion of a recent Boomerang survey (“This Is the Only Way You Should Sign Your Emails.” Money. November 2017, p. 26.)

After assessing more than 350,000 emails with varied signoffs, here are the top three for recipient response rates:

  • Thanks in advance. (65.7%)
  • Thanks. (63%)
  • Thank you. (57.9%)

Regardless of the signoff, many factors can color how we interpret any individual email. Nevertheless, it seems that a touch of gratitude is what makes a palpable difference for most recipients. Gratitude appeals to our shared humanity. It moves us toward our common good and it invites our better angels. We often can imagine seeing that person eye-to-eye, all just from that written word of thanks. We somehow realize all that is behind the expression of gratitude, and it is that connection that often prompts our positive response.

As important as all this is purely from a communications and business perspective, it also relates to the holiday we now approach. Just as gratitude has a positive effect in the business world, it also has a positive effect in our personal lives. Simply pausing daily to reflect on all the things for which you are grateful is soul cleansing and exciting. It tends to improve all aspects of our lives.

As you celebrate this Thanksgiving Day, I trust that you will genuinely take time each day to be thankful. You may soon find that a new sense of gratitude infuses your life.

Happy Thanksgiving!


KNOWING YOUR BEST ROLE

All of us have different roles within different contexts. You might be a leader in one context and a follower in another, the CEO in one world and a worker bee in another; the big-picture person in one universe and the bean counter analyst in another. Although we are often defined by our roles, they are not the only things that define us. How we approach our roles is equally if not more important to what defines us.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects about our roles is knowing what our best role is in any given situation. If you step into the wrong role, then bad things can happen. If you are in the right role but at the wrong time, then bad things can happen. But if you can step into the right role at the right time in the right way, then marvelous things can happen.

Knowing your best role can be tricky. We don’t always want to face up to painful or embarrassing truths about ourselves. However, failure to do so can rob us of the success we genuinely desire. The winning combination materializes when we understand our best role and we can enter into it at the right time and in the right way. The proverbial “now is the time” declaration rings true.

In looking at tech entrepreneurs, we find that some of them struggled with finding their best role or the right timing for that role. Some did not want to admit that the role or the timing may not be right as Austin Carr explains (“Uber’s Driving Lessons: What the Fastest-growing Startup in History Has Revealed about Silicon Valley” FastCompany. September 2017, pp. 25–27):

Steeped in a tradition dating back to Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard creating HP in their Palo Alto garage, tech entrepreneurs are taught that they are the true innovators. And anyone who gets in their way (boards, investors, bureaucrats) is shortsighted, the small-minded naysayers to visionaries like Steve Jobs. So founders today hold tightly to control, leveraging their super voting shares to tilt power away from boards or investors.” (p. 27)

Situations can arise in which the tech entrepreneur is right and everyone else is wrong—or it could be the opposite. However, the reality is not usually quite that simple. More often the truth is somewhere in the middle. To whatever extent both sides can consider that “middle” we have opportunity for growth. The circumstances could lead to a personal, professional, and leadership growth experience for everyone. And sometimes that means paradoxically the best way to fulfill your role is to sacrifice your role. Carr clarifies:

The reality is, sacrificing the CEO title can be in the best interests of both the company and its founder. Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped aside so longtime tech executive Eric Schmidt could steer Google through its IPO during the 2000s. Page studied under Schmidt for roughly a decade before taking back the reins. Jobs, too, took nearly this same amount of time to mature as a CEO before returning to Apple.

Whatever your role might be, what is most important is that you recognize it and that you choose to use it at the right time and in the right way. This is how we maximize our value to our organization, colleagues, customers, and ourselves. Know your best role.


PURSUING A HOLISTIC HEALTHCARE

Healthcare has come a long way. And it still has a long way to go. I don’t think anyone will argue that point. That is why I am relentlessly pursuing a holistic healthcare. I believe holistic healthcare will do more good for more people under more conditions than any other approach.

Doctors have incredibly intensive, specialized training and experience. They are very intelligent and extremely good at their jobs. However, with any area of specialization come specialized risks. This is true of any discipline and the medical discipline is no exception.

Someone once observed that if your only tool is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. I discovered this firsthand with an orthopedic surgeon many years ago. Having experienced an unusual and prolonged pain in one of my toes, I was referred to the surgeon. After a relatively fast examination, he explained to me that I needed surgery to correct a bone calcification/deformity condition.

Having never gone under the knife, this was obviously a decision that I wanted to take some time to consider carefully. In that consideration period, I consulted with my chiropractor, Dr. Bruce Rippee with the Chiropractic Life Center. Dr. Rippee took one look at the situation and correctly diagnosed a dropped metatarsal head. With some manipulation and adjustment work, he rectified the problem. I have been ever grateful that his approach saved me from an unnecessary surgery. Perhaps you have a similar story.

For holistic healthcare to work at its best, you need three components:

  • Patients that want holistic healthcare.
  • Holistic healthcare practitioners.
  • Conventional healthcare practitioners that understand, trust, and support holistic healthcare.

When these three components come together, holistic healthcare can operate efficiently and effectively. I have had conventional healthcare practitioners refer me to holistic healthcare practitioners and vice versa. When each practitioner understands and respects the other, then they become partners in patient care. This partnership brings the greatest benefit to the patient.

On another level, simply the partnership between the patient and the healthcare practitioner tremendously supports a holistic healthcare approach. Dr. Corey Iqbal with the Overland Park Regional Medical Center explains the concept (Andy Marso. “With Patients Having More Say in Treatment, When Do Doctors Say No?” The Kansas City Star. October 15, 2017. p. 12A):

I think one of the mistakes we can make as a health care provider in any capacity is when we decide to take a paternalistic approach and (say) ‘This is what it’s going to be,’ as opposed to looking at the patient-doctor relationship as a partnership. . . . My job is to impart expertise, make them experts on the condition, and then they can make an informed decision.

Dr. Iqbal emphasizes that as a doctor, he must remain open to alternative approaches to the patient’s condition:

I want to fix what’s going on with [patients]. . . . I want to have answers for them and if I don’t have the answers, I want to find innovative ways we can solve those problems.

I deeply appreciate the fact that Dr. Iqbal admits he does not always have all the answers. That is why he is open to alternative approaches. That attitude can only enhance the quality of his patient relationships because his patients know that he is willing to look in other directions.

Dr. Rippee also addresses the importance of that doctor-patient relationship as an essential component to successful holistic healthcare. He genuinely wants to be his patient’s partner. He summarizes his commitment to helping the patient focus on specific goals while exercising a holistic approach (personal communication on file, 10/26/17):

I have always focused on goal-based healthcare that takes into account what the patient would like to see from the next 1, 5, and 10 years. Then I apply the four pillars of excellent movement, nutrition, sleep, and positive thoughts to the end goal that I am given.

Dr. Iqbal and Dr. Rippee are just two examples among many. Increasing numbers of healthcare practitioners are awakening to the fact that healthcare intrinsically demands a holistic approach. Healthcare, by definition must be holistic. Genuine healthcare understands that a hammer is not the only tool. And the more tools we have in our toolbox and the more we use them, the happier, wiser, and healthier we will all be.

Let’s keep pursuing a holistic healthcare!