Conversational Cannonball

Conversational Cannonball

Walt Whitman once said, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.”

True.  But …

I was at a party recently and someone asked how my kids were doing.  I’ll only say this; their journey, how they’re navigating it, and all their accomplishments are pretty impressive.  I’ll leave it at that.

But, sometimes we get caught up in the moment and splash their achievements all over the other person.  And, that’s what I did.  Ever notice when one person splashes, the other person tends to one-up you with their splashing?  It’s a reflex and both of us end up with our eyes stinging.  When she began to respond with how well her kids were doing, I realized I’ve gotten us both all wet.

In fact, I probably misinterpreted the depth of her question to begin with.  I overestimated her interest.  Maybe, I overlooked it completely.  Maybe pride pushed me in.  Maybe I wasn’t ready to swim quite yet and it all took me by surprise.  Her too, for that matter.  It happens to all of us on occasion.

Ego and pride play their parts, but a little goes a long way.  It’s why we take showers, wear nice clothes, accomplish things, and care how we’re perceived and received by the world.  But, there’s a threshold.  Cross it and we’ve gone from interesting to “Get me the hell out of this pool”.

When someone asks us, “Hey, how’s it going?”  The most widely accepted social reply is, “Pretty good; thanks.  How are you doing?”  They respond and we go about our day.  It’s a greeting, not an interrogation.

I should have said, “Oh, they’re doing great; thanks.  And yours?”  If she responded with, “Really good; thanks”, that would also be the end of the encounter.  Perfectly acceptable and understandable.  Or, the conversation gracefully makes its way to deeper waters.

Shallow, surface level conversation in perpetuity makes me want to get out and towel off.  I swim much better below the surface than on it.  I thrive there, but a cannonball is too much, too soon, and way too splashy.

Anyways, before we splash our achievements, adventures, and awesome exploits on someone who isn’t ready to get all wet, we should probably test the waters first.  Just because they asked, “How’s the water”, doesn’t mean they want to be violently thrown in.

By the way; how are you doing?

Photo by Eleanor Carter on Unsplash


Be the Guide, Not the Show: 10 Wisdoms

I grew up as an only child and an introvert.  In my third year of college, I had to take Public Speaking and I remember thinking about dropping out, because of it.  I went to that class against my own will and with a bad attitude.  Oh, I was kicking and screaming like a three-year old.

I remember the first day of that class: It was icy, cold, and snowing.  I just drank a gallon of coffee, so I stopped in the men’s room just outside the classroom doors.  It was a large facility with a bank of urinals and stalls and it was empty.  Sweet!  I took the far urinal against the left wall and just then, the door opened.  This older guy comes in whistling.  Whistling!

As if that wasn’t enough, he broke rule number 2.5 of section 1, under man-code “A” of the manual.  He took the urinal right next to mine!  Are you kidding me!?  That urinal isn’t supposed to be used at all.  In fact, it’s just a buffer to the next one.  There’s a whole bank of urinals and you want to rub shoulders with me!?  And then … this: He stopped whistling to speak to me.  Why?

It went like this: “Good things, these.”

Um … what?

“These.  Urinals.  What a great invention; am I right?”

Uh … sure.  I guess so.

“Cold out there.  Have a good day.”

And he left.  Skipped the whole hand washing bit.  That was weird.

I washed my hands and headed into the classroom where I met my Public Speaking instructor.  Yep … you guessed it: Urinal guy.  Ugh!  But, as it turned out, it was one of the best course experiences I had and he was a great instructor.  Never shook his hand though.

He challenged and pushed me and at times, I hated him for it.  Now, I love him for it.  It’s been many years since that class and I’ve built my career on being a really good guide.  I’ve been, and some I still am, an instructor, teacher, trainer, host, guide, mentor, speaker, writer, marketer, brand manager, sales director, business development manager, director of corporate culture, and presenter.

I’m not a yogi.  Not yet, anyway.  However, if we’re going to be yogis, teachers, instructors, leaders, managers, speakers, hosts, or have any human interaction whatsoever, I’d like to share some practical real-world wisdom:

It’s not about us.  It’s about the audience and each of their individual experiences.  It’s our job to be the guide, not the show.  Unless we are the show and if that’s the case, we better be the damn show.

  1. Be credible. Know your shit.  Learn, train, practice, research, and prepare.
  2. Lose the ego. They’re looking to us to lead, guide, or teach.  That is all.
  3. Be real. Be you.  Be authentic, down to earth, and relatable.
  4. Check your bad day at the door.
  5. Be present and engage with the audience.
  6. Get a sense of humor and relax.
  7. Be alive, enthusiastic, and energetic.
  8. Never stop learning and growing. The journey is ongoing.
  9. Speak clearly, understandably, and audibly. And … listen.
  10. Be, flexible and adaptable, because shit happens.

What we’re teaching, presenting, hosting, writing, sharing, or instructing is the show, not us.  We are only the guide.

Be a great guide.

Photo by Severin Hoin on Unsplash


Meta X = X about X

So, if X is data, then Metadata is information about data.

Data, data.

It’s self-referential.

Meta-archeology is archeology about the study of human history.

Archeology, archeology.

Meta-comedy is comedy about jokes.  Very funny.

Even a metaphor is using one word/phrase to designate another word/phrase.

It’s next level stuff, right?  Going deeper from within.

Following this “meta” pathway, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a Meta-human.

A human about people.


Photo by Artur Kraft on Unsplash

Leader: No Titles Needed

Back in my single digits, I remember getting birthday cards in the mail addressing me as “Master Wilson” or “Master Rob”. That was pretty cool. You don’t see that much anymore. In accordance with the English honorary system, as we become adults, “Master” becomes Mister (Mr.), where Mr. is used to denote rank below Knighthood. That would be “Sir”.

“Introducing Sir Robert Wilson of the Clan Wilson, descendant of Scottish ancestry and rightful heir to … well, whatever it is he’s accomplished and earned at this point in his life, I guess. Anyone want to chime in here? Anyone at all.”

Crickets …

What I may have achieved in rank or status is simply a byproduct of the journey thus far.  I am comfortable with “Rob” with no need or attachment to “Mr. Wilson”.

Anyways, mastery is in the process, not the result.  Ego and pride, like anything else, can be healthy, but there’s a threshold.  Too much of either and we’ve crossed over into insecurity.  Wait … who’s room is this?

Power exercised, through rank, title, or status, is weak and it’s following is false.  True leadership is empowering those around us to be their best selves.  Throw in the dynamics of reality with its infinite number of variables and it takes a diverse menu of skills, characteristics, experience, and knowledge to effectively serve that restaurant.

For Starters: Trust, open and honest communication, candor, real-world experience, benevolence, knowledge, wisdom, transparency, confidence, active listening, interest, passion, and authenticity.

Main Dishes: Respect, optimism, delegation, collaboration, empathy, resilience, strength, care, decisiveness, fortitude, optimism, focus, egoless, human-centric, concern, and nuance.

Desert: Humor, levity, celebrate wins as a team (big and small) and encourage personal growth and quality of life, because happy people are successful people.

When we do the leadership thing right, there’s no need for a mandated “Mr”, “Sir”, “Master”, “Doctor”, “Sensei”, “Yogi” (which I’m not), or whatever.  If it’s offered, then we graciously accept, but just the name should be and mean more than any title (official military ranking aside).

Your table is ready, Mr. Gandhi. “Please; call me Mahatma. Thank you.”

Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash. 

What Do You Do?

In a recent BBC News piece, India Rakusen goes to Montana to interview local residents to find out why their male suicide rates are double the national average.  Missoula mayor, John Engen said the town used to manufacture and depend on the timber industry and that has gone away.  “What’s the first thing you ask a stranger in a social situation?  What do you do?”, Engen says.  “Much of your identity is wrapped up in what you do.”

When what we do goes away, who are we?  That shouldn’t even be a question, but it is and that’s the problem.  Pride and ego play their parts.  We define ourselves through our occupation and “What do you do” doesn’t help.  Mostly, we answer that question with our job title: “I’m a logger”, “I’m a yoga teacher”, “I’m a sales manager” or “I’m a nurse”.  It is the easy answer; the easy way out.

As a social ice-breaker, “What do you do” works, but it’s a bit intrusive and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon.  So, now the burden is on the receiver to respond, “I’m the VP of Nobody Really Cares” or “I’m the GM for Blah, Blah, Vomit” or “I design quick exit strategies for pretentious busy-bodies I can’t seem to avoid at parties; but, let’s talk about you, which is really why we’re here, right?”

“Rob, that’s not very Yogi like.”  I told you … I am not a yogi.

In an article by Joshua Fields Millburn entitled “Life’s Most Dangerous Question”, he says the asker of “What do you do” is saying, “How do you earn a paycheck? How much money do you make? What is your socioeconomic status? And based on that status, where do I fall on the socioeconomic ladder compared to you? Am I a rung above you? Below you? How should I judge you? Are you worth my time?” 

Tongue in cheek, but kind of true.

In a Chevy Silverado commercial, two guys meet for the first time at a neighborhood block party and one guy asks the other, “So … what do you do?”  That’s when the other guy runs through his head, everything he does: a romantic dinner with his wife, barbecues for the family, catches fish, works on a construction site, rides motocross cycles in the desert on weekends, sings to his kids in the car, plays chess with his father-in-law, etc.  He’s doing the whole man-worker-husband-dad thing.  So, at the end, he can’t really answer in words and says, “I, eh …”.  And the narrator cuts in, “For those that live life for a living”

Yes!  Maybe we adopt that line verbatim: “I live life for a living”.

Done.  Now grab a beer and play some corn-hole.

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

Is Karma Really a Bitch?

“Oh, she’s such a nice person.  Karma’s a bitch!” Said, no one … ever.  It just doesn’t make sense.

Rarely, do we hear karma mentioned after a kind act.  “Karma’s a saint!”  Sounds weird, doesn’t it.  But, we’re quick to call her(?) the “B” word.  We’re so focused on the negative, ready to cheer the universe on in vengeance.

But as karma goes, it’s neither good nor bad.  It’s not for us and not against us; it just is.

In ancient Sanskrit, Karma simply means, action.  Given that, we are karmic beings and there are three aspects of our being that create Karma: Thinking, speaking, and acting.  The accumulation of these three things is karma.

Karma is action and action is energy.  The good and bad is in the action itself and that becomes the positive or negative energy that goes out into the universe.  And, as it’s been said, no debt in the universe goes unpaid.  It comes back.  This is Karma.

“Oh, so is this what they mean when for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction?”  Mmm, no.  That’s Newton’s third law of motion, but I see where your head’s at.

While Karma is action it’s not a transaction.  Doing good as payment towards a positive outcome is not really how it works.  I know; you just can’t buy good juju anymore.  Am I right?

The philosophy that we get what we give is true, but not in the way we might think.  It’s more of an investment from our soul to the betterment of not just ourselves, but the world.  It’s not an exchange of goods and services.

What about “instant Karma”, like when someone loots a store, runs out into the street, and gets hit by a bus.  That’s when all the villagers rejoice, cheering “Karma’s a bitch!”

Is that instant karma?  Well, the thing is … karma is always instant.  It’s just that sometimes, it takes a while.  If you believe in the linear concept of time, that is.  “Wait; what?”

Hey, I’m no yogi.

Our thoughts, words, and actions (karma) go out into the universe.  If we give effort, value, time, advice, responsiveness, authenticity, honesty, love, humor, attention, thanks, work, care, empathy, diligence, and so on and we try to improve ourselves through study, practice, training, and research to be a valuable source to others, then that is good karma; so to speak.

But, reality can suck and we are only human.  I’ve seen Buddhist monks lose their spiritual shit.  Some crap happened to us, someone wronged us, disrespect, tragedy, death, aggression, sickness, vandalism, thievery, or we smash our toe on the damn coffee table.  No one is immune, it’s just that some of us shake it off more quickly than others.  Some hang on to it and live in a negative state of anger, hate, worry, fear, and sadness, because without it, they feel they’ll have nothing.  Not true, by the way.  If they don’t let go, it will continue in perpetuity.  I’ve seen it and its very sad.  But if they do let go, karma will respond in kind and life can be pretty good, considering.

She’s not the “B” word; she just is.  Our relationship with Karma, is up to us.

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash