Reflections on pop culture and other tragi-comedies.
Quotes that Say Something
"Please, dad, get down and look. I think there's some kind of monster under my bed."
Life when seen in close-up often seems tragic, but in wide-angle it often seems comic. -- Charlie Chaplin
"And when the cloudbursts thunder in your ear, you shout, but no one's there to hear. And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon." -- Roger Waters, "Brain Damage"
You are annoying your boss and colleagues any time you take your phone out during meetings, says new research from USC's Marshall School of Business, and if you work with women and people over forty they're even more perturbed by it than everyone else.
The researchers conducted a nationwide survey of 554 full-time working professionals earning above $30K and working in companies with at least 50 employees. They asked a variety of questions about smartphone use during meetings and found:
86% think it’s inappropriate to answer phone calls during meetings
84% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during meetings
66% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails even during lunches offsite
The more money people make the less they approve of smartphone use.
The study also found that Millennials are three times more likely than those over 40 to think that smartphone use during meetings is okay, which is ironic considering Millennials are highly dependent upon the opinions of their older colleagues for career advancement.
TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence of more than a million people worldwide and found that Millennials have the lowest self-awareness in the workplace, making them unlikely to see that their smartphone use in meetings is harming their careers.
Why do so many people—especially successful people—find smartphone use in meetings to be inappropriate? When you take out your phone it shows a:
Lack of respect. You consider the information on your phone to be more important than the conversation at hand, and you view people outside of the meeting to be more important than those sitting right in front of you.
Lack of attention. You are unable to stay focused on one thing at a time.
Lack of listening. You aren’t practicing active listening, so no one around you feels heard.
Lack of power. You are like a modern-day Pavlovian dog who responds to the whims of others through the buzz of your phone.
Lack of self-awareness: You don't understand how ridiculous your behavior looks to other people.
Lack of social awareness: You don't understand how your behavior affects those around you.
I can't say I'm surprised by USC's findings. My company coaches leaders using 360° assessments that compare their self-perception to how everyone else sees them. Smartphone use in meetings is one of the most common coworker complaints.
It’s important to be clear with what you expect of others. If sharing this article with your team doesn't end smartphone use in meetings, take a page out of the Old West and put a basket by the conference room door with an image of a smart phone and the message, "Leave your guns at the door."
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Kevin Kruseis a NYT bestselling author, accomplished speaker, and expert in employee engagement and leadership. Download free articles at his website KevinKruse.com
Facelift or Major Surgery? This article ("Hard Questions" -- see below) caught my attention back on September 5. I saw it again today, read it for a second time, and it still has my attention. You might find it enlightening too. A big, ballyhooed synod in Rome (about the challenges of family life today) is about to occur during October. Heavy concerns -- family life, birth control, abortion, euthanasia, women's roles in the church and women's ordination, divorce and remarriage, cohabitation by singles, the Eucharist and the divorced, to simply name a few -- will either be discussed via the formal synod agenda or, alternately, will likely swirl around and above the central synod sessions like storm clouds drawing nearer by the minute. Other pressing concerns: youth (as 'spiritual but not religious') in the church, declining Mass attendance in many countries, a growing shortage of priests, bishops and priests who have done wrong but remain in office/ministry, nefarious financial dealings in the Vatican, a truculence in Curia operations, and, ta da!, the dastardly and spreading (and oh so costly) sexual abuse crimes and cover-ups -- will percolate in various ways on the table or below the table at the Rome meeting.
Into the growing anticipation, the writer, John Allen Jr., inserts a question. Does the current media-savvy, Pope often get a pass when it comes to some very hard questions and issues that affect the church and the world? Like a famous dead U.S. President, does Francis have something like teflon coating. For example, he has been Pope for some time now. Consider what he has done and, more, all that he has not done when it comes to the egregious matter of criminal sexual abuse of children and other vulnerable persons, across many dioceses and countries, by adults linked to the church, especially priests, teachers, coaches, and members of religious communities. Like the spectacular Catholic theologian, Rev. Hans Kung, a one-time friend and colleague of Pope Benedict XVI, I think that Pope Francis' novelty and window of opportunity to effect significant changes and reforms will erode soon if he is not more bold in his actions and decisions. Widespread disillusionment and cynicism among Catholics and other world citizens might set in soon if the new, smiling Pope proclaims God's mercy but dithers on the big stuff. The Patient is Ready, Doctor Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York says that Francis has surprisingly given the church a "facelift." That sounds essentially right. But also like rather shallow praise. Consider the metaphor. Plastic surgery mainly makes changes to the surface appearance(s) of a reality. It does not dig deep to solve and heal troubles like other types of operations do. Facelifts suggest style, not substance. How long (i.e., how much time) will Pope Francis be granted the people, the body, the community of believers, to get in up to his elbows to deeply address and deal with the modern church's obvious ills? The pontiff has hinted that there may not be many substantive doctrinal (and other?) changes during his papacy. Does that mean we should expect years of "small ball" out ofRomerather than more sizable and radical approaches to issues and possibilities? Francis has been known to say (paraphrased), 'Hey. Remember this. Bottom line I am a faithful son of the Church.' Like Fr. Kung, I think the clock might be winding down to a shrug and a whimper, not a bang. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tock. Tock. Tickety-tock . . . . Tick . . . . Have a day! Butch Ekstrom
***** ***** *****
(The original title of the piece below is "Hard Questions We Are Not Asking Pope Francis.")
By John L. Allen Jr.
CRUX, Associate Editor -- September 2, 2014
Pope Francis is an undeniably attractive figure whose concern for people at society’s margins can be awesome to behold. As a result, it’s almost impossible sometimes not to go soft on the man.
To take a recent example: While in South Korea in mid-August, the pontiff made a point of visiting a group of severely disabled children at a health care center outside Seoul. He delighted in a dance they performed, then utterly disregarded his schedule to embrace each one by one. He laughed with them, wiped away their tears, and for a brief, shining moment, made them feel like the center of the universe.
Even cynical reporters watching the scene had a hard time not choking up, because Francis just feels so palpably like the real deal.
Yet precisely because there’s so much to like, Francis sometimes gets a free pass on the sort of legitimate questions any other leader would attract. In that regard he often seems the mirror opposite of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Because Benedict had a bad public image, he sometimes was blamed even for things that weren’t his fault. In contrast, Francis often is absolved even for choices for which he actually is responsible.
Where Benedict was Velcro, Francis is Teflon. For Benedict everything stuck, for Francis almost nothing does.
At least four hard questions we should be asking more often come to mind.
1. Women and the Church
First up is the pope’s record on women. Despite his firm “no” to women priests, he has said repeatedly that he wants to see a greater role for women in Catholicism, including participation in the “important decisions … where the authority of the Church is exercised.”
To date, however, Francis hasn’t offered many examples of what such a greater role would look like. When he’s had a chance to chip away at the Vatican’s glass ceiling for women, quite often he’s whiffed.
In March, he named seven lay people to his new Council for the Economy, the first time at such a senior level that laity have sat with Cardinals as equals on a decision-making body.
It was a step forward for the lay role in the Church, but there wasn’t a single woman in the line-up. Even when presented with realistic proposals for empowering women, he’s balked.
The question is, “Why not?
Sex abuse is another front. An exception came with an Aug. 24 piece in The New York Times about former Polish Archbishop Joseph Wesolowski, a onetime papal envoy in the Dominican Republic accused of molesting minors. He was recalled in late 2013 and laicized, meaning kicked out of the priesthood, in June.
The Times asked whether bringing the former prelate to Rome was a way of evading civil prosecution, forcing the Vatican to clarify that because he’s been stripped of diplomatic status, he could stand trial in the Dominican Republic or any other jurisdiction that wants a shot at him.
Wesolowski, however, was not the only question mark.
The pope set up an anti-abuse commission last December to great fanfare, yet aside from organizing a meeting for the pontiff with abuse victims in June, it hasn’t done very much. At this stage, it’s not clear where it’s physically going to be housed, or whose jurisdiction it falls under.
Word in Rome is that an announcement about the commission might be coming this week. Still, it’s fair to ask why, if fighting child abuse is a priority, it’s taken this long for the pope’s chosen reform vehicle to get going.
Another shoe waiting to drop is accountability for bishops – not in cases such as Wesolowski’s, where the bishop himself is accused of abuse, but when bishops fail to apply the Church’s “zero tolerance” policy to other clergy under their supervision.
Francis acted with vigor when the infamous “bling bishop” in Limburg, Germany, was accused of over-spending. Why hasn’t he shown the same zeal in disciplining bishops who drop the ball on abuse charges?
3. The pope as diplomat
There are questions to be asked about Francis’ performance as a diplomat.
Perhaps, and of course it’s unfair to blame Francis for failing to solve the Israeli/Palestinian problem when everyone else has come up empty. Still, if he wants to be a “Peace Pope,” it’s legitimate to ask if there’s something more incisive he might contemplate beyond feel-good rituals in the Vatican Gardens featuring a lame-duck Israeli president with no real influence.
To date, the only concrete diplomatic success to which Francis can point is helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cling to power by opposing Western strikes. The pope had his reasons, including fear for Syria’s Christians in the aftermath of regime change. Yet assuming that Assad reasserts control, the question is whether Francis will use the Church’s resources to promote greater respect for human rights and democracy.
If not, his major political accomplishment could go down as propping up a thug.
Despite his reputation for spontaneity and candor, Francis is also capable of some debatable diplomatic silences.
He’s often said that the suffering of persecuted Christians makes him weep. Yet when he was recently a few miles away from arguably the most atrocious oppressor in the world, North Korea, he went strangely quiet. Asked during a press conference about Christians in North Korea, he replied in generic terms about the pain of a divided country.
The pontiff also extended an olive branch to China during the trip, without mentioning its own record of oppressing Christians and other minority groups.
In a similar vein, word has gone out to Vatican personnel to use caution in commenting on the Islamic State in northern Iraq for fear of framing the conflict as “Christian v. Muslim,” thereby handing radicals a propaganda and recruiting tool. While understandable, the question is whether such discretion will impede the ability of the pope and Church officials to mobilize support for Iraq’s Christians, who are undeniably a primary target.
Perhaps in all these cases, Francis has a legitimate fear of making things worse by speaking out. Without explanation, however, critics may begin to detect a dubious policy of “peace at any price.”
That drumbeat has already begun from the likes of the Rev. Gianni Criveller, a Hong Kong-based member of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions and a leading expert on China.
“No agreement is better than a bad agreement,” Criveller said of Francis’ efforts at détente with Beijing. “I would focus more on supporting Catholics in China and speaking about their plight more openly.”
4. Collaborative or unilateral?
Francis could be asked about what seems on the surface a contradiction between his stated commitment to decentralization and collaboration, and his practice of acting unilaterally when the mood strikes him.
This is a pope, after all, who blew past the normal protocol for naming saints to award a halo to a member of his own Jesuit order,Peter Faber. He disregarded the input of Italian bishops to tap an obscure prelate he happens to like as their new secretary. He gives blockbuster interviews that haven’t been cleared with his communications team, let alone other Vatican aides or local bishops, even though they’re the ones forced to respond when the bombshells go off.
One senior Western diplomat has called Francis’ management style “government by surprise,” expressing sympathy for mid-level officials serially caught off guard.
The pope has convened two synods, meaning summits of bishops from around the world, to discuss matters related to the family, including the controversial issue of whether divorced and remarried Catholics should be able to receive communion. While saying he wants an open debate, he’s signaled in a half-dozen ways his personal sympathy to the more flexible position – arguably, stacking the deck.
Francis’ maverick streak is part of his charm, and one may firmly believe that all these acts are taking the Church in the right direction. Still, it’s fair to ask how they square with his vow of “collegiality,” meaning governing in concert with others.
‘These are things I need to hear’
To be clear, it’s not that Francis is incapable of answering these questions. It’s rather that his charisma sometimes impedes them from even being asked, especially with any edge.
During an hour-long press conference on the way back from South Korea, only a couple of these questions surfaced, and then in mild form. Yet in addition to inquiries about his views on Iraq and China, those of us on the plane found time to ask how Francis copes with his “immense popularity,” how he felt about his favorite soccer team winning the Argentine championship, and what his daily routine is like in the Vatican residence where he lives.
In the end, pulling punches is no service to anyone. Least of all is it any help to Francis, who has said of criticism offered in a constructive spirit,
We live by our calendars and agendas, tirelessly scheduling everything.
But sometimes, the payoff is far greater when we simply say "no."
No. This quick, two-letter word can often be one of the hardest for us to say. In fact,research shows that we frequently agree to more than we truly want to because feeling overbooked and overwhelmed seems more comfortable in the moment than disappointing others. And it only gets harder when we have to say "no" face to face.
"One of our most fundamental needs is for social connection and a feeling that we belong," Dr. Vanessa Bohns, assistant professor of management sciences at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, told The Wall Street Journal. "Saying "no" feels threatening to our relationships and that feeling of connectedness."
Unfortunately, this desire to remain connected to everyone else often disconnects us from our true selves. We sacrifice our own needs and wants for the sake of social grace, a sacrifice that may not be worth it every time.
Throughout this "year of mindfulness," we have pondered what it means to live mindfully. One of the key elements focuses on our ability to feel what we feel -- both good and bad. When we are mindful, we are honest and accepting of how we feel in the present moment as opposed to working to resist, control or change it.
Truly being in tune with yourself involves knowing when you need to deviate from the norm for your own physical, mental and emotional well-being. Saying "no" to others ultimately begins with telling yourself that "no" is a viable option.
Here are five times you should quiet that inner desire to please others and, instead, listen for what will make you happy.
Need a little headspace?Skip happy hour.
Crowds, loud conversations and alcohol rarely help a person who is already feeling overstimulated -- introverts in particular. Check in with yourself at the end of the day and ask yourself what you really need once you clock out. If that answer involves a little peace, quiet and solitude, don't hesitate to head straight home. True friends will not only accept this aspect of your personality, but also understand that everyone needs a little "me" time every now and then.
Feeling physically exhausted?Give yourself the night off.
Even the most dedicated athletes have days that leave them feeling incredibly drained and worn out -- so much so that an evening workout isn't always in their best interest. Listen to your body and give it time to recuperate when it needs it rather than pushing through your scheduled class or training run just because you always go. Shift your priorities from following a routine to following your feelings. Indulging in a quiet evening at home and early bedtime will likely make the following day and workout that much better.
Can't hear yourself think?Create your "cave."
When rambling thoughts are getting the best of you, one of the best solutions is retreating to a quiet, relaxing space that will help you find a complete sense of calm.Design your "cave" within your home with simple, soothing and tech-free elements. Whether you need an entire room or just your favorite chair with a good book, having a set place at at the end of the day to escape all outside stressors can be the best medicine for a restless mind.
Had a rough week?Take a personal Friday night.
If you feel more excited by the idea of heading home, shutting out the world and just spending a relaxing night at home, go for it! Instead of feeling obligated to a late night of bar-hopping because everyone else wants to go, enjoy prepping a home-cooked meal and watching the latest episode of your favorite show you didn't catch live earlier in the week. Invitations to others are optional -- it's your free time, so decide how you want to spend it.
Just not in the mood?Simply say "no."
At the end of the day, you don't actually need a circumstantial reason to take a personal night. The only agenda you are truly obligated to is the one within yourself. Gracefully decline offers, shift a few weekday plans to the weekend, and revel in the joys of spending time in your space, your comfort zone, the place that makes you feel most mindful.