A book review: “i hate the internet”

i hate the internet cover

I hate the internet too, sometimes. With all its intrusiveness, and filtered-ness, and make-everyone-disconnected-ness – my feelings toward the internet have long been conflicted. That’s why, when I saw the book “i hate the internet” in an airport bookshop I bought it. I thought we would be kindred spirits. I imagined myself reading the booking and nodding into it like: “Yaaaaassssss…soooo true.” Wrong. Instead, I found myself squinting in disbelief as I read through the most farfetched storyline I’ve ever come across in my life. I wish I could tell you that Jarett Kobek’s “I hate the internet” was the best read ever – but it wasn’t.

The story begins with Adeline (she’s kind of famous), who’s received a threatening message on Twitter. The threat: “Dear slut, I hope you are gang-raped by syphilis infected illegal aliens.”  Crazy, right?

The story then backs up and takes us through the events that led to this scandalous Twitter threat.

Jarett weaves in historical facts so outlandish you will think they are made up – but they’re not. I stopped at least eight times to Google various facts and sure enough, there it was. Truth and Consequences is a city in New Mexico and what’s his face really was a Google exec who had an affair with one of the company’s managers. The scandals of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious men and women support his notion that the internet and those who help propel its current state of upmost importance in our lives are the problem with society.

His main characters go on rants about why the internet sucks, and why the people who helped build it and those who help keep it going suck more.

While I relate to the premise of this piece, the storyline and characters are so bizarre they become a distraction away from the main point.

In short, here’s the rundown:

Plot?  There is none.

Humor? There is some.

Character development? For this to be a shorter book (a little over 200 pages) with many characters, Kobek did a great job developing his characters. Readers get to know them and their peculiarities.

Lessons?  This book will help you get a few extra questions correct on jeopardy.

Grit? Yes. Criticisms aside, the author offers social criticism with no filter.

While I didn’t enjoy “I hate the internet” from an entertainment standpoint, the book does make accurate observations about race, gender, feminism, and morality.

I walked away questioning and revising my own actions. When the time came for me to blast a celebrity for one ignorant action or another, I thought twice. Kobek makes you think twice about doing anything that will advance the pockets of already rich strangers as you gain nothing in return.

Before I blasted the rapper, the president-elect (he was just the president-elect when I first began drafting this post), the reality show star, etc. – I thought about the effect my typed words would have. I asked myself if I was OK being used as an advertising tool by posting this content. Ninety percent of the time I was not OK with that and either refrained from posting or revised my words accordingly.

So no, the book was not a thriller, but it did open and re-open my mind to a few social constructs. As President Barack Obama said: “Not everything’s supposed to be inspiring.” If some sliver of insight is gained, I’ll take it!

Goals: No matter where you are, the rules don’t change.

 

This IMG_4636is nothing compared to life.

That’s what I told myself at mile 13 – when my energy dropped, and stomach growled. I was on a 16-mile training run in preparation for the Dallas Marathon.

Things got uncomfortable, but one thought kept me going: “I’ve survived life thus far. Sixteen miles on the trail – I can do.”

The rules that get me through my runs and training are the same rules that get me through work, and life in general.

When it starts to burn, push harder. Does running feel great all the time? Nah. Do I want to stop when discomfort starts? Yup. But discomfort doesn’t mean it’s time to stop. It’s a sign that I’m outside my comfort zone – which is where I want to be. I tell myself that after this push up the hill, things will get better. Discomfort is okay. After all, what’s life without a little tension? So on the trail and in life, I never back away from the burn.

Discipline pays off. Running as a sport takes discipline. Between the diet, workout regime, and scheduling as you adjust life to fit into your runs – there are many times when you have to do things you don’t want to do, and refrain from things you actually want to do – like that second glass of wine or happy hour with the girls. But discipline keeps you on track. In the words of Michael Jordan: “If you do the work, you get rewarded. There are no shortcuts in life.”

Quitting is not an option. When I get tired, I remind myself that I wouldn’t quit in the office, so why quit on my run. And when work is wearing me out, I think of my grit on the trail and act accordingly. The same rules apply no matter where you are. I have eight 5ks, three 10ks, and one half marathon under my belt.* I’m not the fastest, most graceful, or most fit person out there, but none of that matters to me. What matters is that I start and finish.

Goals – gotta have them. I set goals that stretch me. I set the big goal first, then establish a series of smaller goals to get me there. I signed up for the marathon, then stuck to an organized training regime, then signed up for various runs (including my first half marathon) in preparation for the big fish. In pursuit of the new big goal, I did a few things I’d never done before.

Smile. You never know where it may lead.  Much happiness exists wherever runners are. We nod, smile and wave at each other. Sometimes it’s a yell of encouragement – a “looking good” or “you can do it!” Every now and then there’s a hi-five or thumbs up. I remind myself to make eye contact and smile, because even brief positive interactions create good energy. This is no different than being at work. I remind myself to smile there too, and to slow down and enjoy the interactions. Do you ever find yourself fixing your coffee or heating your lunch in a hurry, trying to get done before someone comes in because small talk is not your thing? I do. But if I can hi-five a stranger in the park, I can make small talk with colleagues I spend 40+ hours a week with.

Patience is a virtue.  I told a friend I was headed out on my longest run ever. Sixteen miles. She asked how long that would take. I told her it would take about three hours. Her response: “That’s why I don’t run. Three whole hours running? That demands a lot of patience.” Before that conversation, I had never thought about the amount of patience running required. There is the patience needed to train, and the patience needed on that long, grueling run.

And lastly, give credit (to yourself) where credit is due. It wasn’t until recently that I felt comfortable calling myself a “runner.”  In my mind, runners broke records, earned medals, and made crowds cheer. “I do none of that,” I thought. But I do. I break my own records. My new-found comfort with calling myself a runner – a word that before seemed too grand an adjective for my level of athleticism – is only one of the ways I have evolved as a runner. I am okay being one of the world’s most “Okayest” runners.

Change Begins with You

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Bud Hammes was the catalyst for change in La Crosse, WI – a city of 52,000 people.

If one man could trigger change in the mindset of 50,000+ people, why do some think they are too “small” to trigger significant change in their organizations?

When I hear comments like “That’s above my pay grade,” or “He’s the boss, let him deal with it,” or “I just work here, what do I know?” – I cringe.

However, when I come across stories like the one featured on WABE (Atlanta’s NPR station) about La Crosse, WI – I am reminded that everyone is not complacent, or that easily discouraged.

As a medical ethicist, Bud Hammes is often in the room with families who have to make tough medical decisions on behalf of loved ones unable to make decisions themselves. Should they pull the plug, or not? Is the additional treatment worth it, or not?

In the past when Hammes asked, “‘what would your Dad want,’ ‘what would your Mom want?’ the answer was the same again and again.” No one knew what their loved ones wanted.

He’d had enough of witnessing this painful conversation. The hospital distributed living wills to patients during routine visits but most people put off completing them – probably because they didn’t want to think about death, and many thought they had time to worry about that later down the line. But Hammes knew better.

The hospital where he worked started training staff, ministers, lawyers and others in the community on how to understand and make these tough decisions. During routine health visits, the living will discussion became a regular part of the process. It was difficult at first, but eventually more and more people became at ease with it.

Today, 96% of La Crosse residents have completed a living will – way higher than the national percentage of 30. Death is now a comfortable conversation, and everyone from young children to spouses know and understand the wishes of their loved ones. Should something tragic happen, they know what to do.

Hammes implemented the Respecting Choices program because he thought it was the right thing to do. As a result, families no longer have to guess what the people in their lives want.

Another result, however, has been decreased costs for end-of-life health care. “It turns out that if you allow patients to choose and direct their care, they often choose a course that is much less expensive,” says Jeff Thompson, CEP of Gundersen Hospital.

Dartmouth Health Atlas reported that La Cross spends less on patient health care at the end of life than any other U.S. state.

With the recent changes in health care, many facilities around the country have been reaching out to Bud Hammes and Gunderson to learn more about what they are doing. The facility managed to impact not only people’s lives, but also the hospital’s financial standing by implementing one new procedure that started with one person’s idea.

Bud Hammes could have easily said: “Oh well. It’s not my problem.” He could have decided that this issue was beyond his control. But he didn’t. Instead he led from where he was and impacted the people around him.

The lesson here is that things are never out of your control. You may not be able to make major changes immediately, and you may not have freedom to make all of the decisions, but focusing on the things you can impact is enough to make real change.

How #Gala4Haiti Contributed to My Work-Play Balance

Forget about Work-Life balance. What you should really go for is Work-Play balance.

 

Let’s face it: for many of us, work is so ingrained in our lives and in who we are that it’s a challenge, and sometimes impossible, to separate the two. As much as possible, I aim to balance out the work not with life, but with play.

 

I recently had the opportunity to do this at #Gala4Haiti – a black tie event featuring live entertainment and a fashion show with both Haitian and Haitian American designers showcasing their collections.  The December 12 event was hosted by Consul General Gandy Thomas and the staff of the General Consulate of Haiti in Atlanta, GA. The purpose of the event was to showcase the artistry of Haitian and Haitian American designers and further establish Haiti as a country where the arts can thrive. As stated by Consul General Gandy himself – Haiti is open for business!

 

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I got to put on my favorite black dress and super-high heels and be around other sparkly people for the evening. I saw a few old contacts and made some new ones. I enjoyed delicious Haitian cusine, got to hear and speak some Creole (I don’t do that often enough!) and imagine myself  wearing the runway selections of the evening – like this blue and yellow number:

 

I so need this for my next trip to the Caribbean!

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Beautiful.

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I need this in my closet, too!

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Fierce!

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There were way more looks than I could capture, so I spent the evening enjoying the show, and letting my memory be the recorder.

 

#Gala4Haiti gave me something to get excited about during the week. What made it so exciting is that it was completely unexpected. One tweet led to another, then another, and before I knew it Danica Kombol  from Everywhere had invited me to the event! (Thanks Danica!)

 

When we enjoy our time “on the clock,” our time “off the clock” is that much better, and vice versa. My play-time outside of the office adds to my work in that I can draw from those experiences when working on creative projects or problem-solving. Because of my outer-work experiences, I have more stories to tell and more memories to store. In addition, the play helps to keep me well-rounded, and  who doesn’t enjoy working with well-rounded people?

 

So my call-to-action to you is be open to receive the unexpected, and forget about Work-Life balance! Trust me, things are way more exciting when you focus on a healthy balance between work, and play.

The DNA of My Leadership Heroes

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I’ve worked with some amazing leaders. Some I reported to, others I collaborated with and others I watched from afar. There are seven people represented below. These are the characteristics of theirs which I admire:

  1. She is genuine.
  2. She trusts her team to make decisions.
  3. Under fire, she is calm.
  4. He is flexible.
  5. They are confident.
  6. She’s crafty.
  7. He knows how to stretch his team without overwhelming them.
  8. He is fair. All employees are equal as far as his actions go.
  9. She’s a great presenter. If she says it, you’ll believe it.
  10. He cares about his team members’ professional development.
  11. He never lets himself get comfortable, and by default, he never lets his team get comfortable.
  12. Even when she doesn’t agree, she’s graceful.
  13. She shows a personal interest in the people she works with. If you’re sick at home, you can count on a visit.
  14. She pays attention to the details. All of them.
  15. He knows how to build consensus. Before it’s all said and done everyone thinks the plan is their idea – and it is.
  16. He uses competition to motivate the team.
  17. She believes in keeping everyone informed about what her team is doing.
  18. Her laugh comes easily.
  19. They are consistent.
  20. He embraces the unique personalities of each team member.
  21. They protect their teams.
  22. And this I can say of every single person who has ever hired me, from age 16 to now: They gave me a chance.

 I put this list together as a road map for and reminder of the type of leader I aim to be.

What’s the DNA of your leadership heroes?

How Would Your Employees Answer the Question: “How Was Work?”

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“If all the people leave the building there is no organization left in it. The organization is the people, their relationships, their motivations, their energies, their values, their aspirations or lack of them. It’s a living breathing thing. A successful organization is one that reciprocates with its environment and one that helps to enrich the environment upon which it depends. When that relationship is broken the organism dies.”  – Sir Ken Robinson

On a typical day, how do you think your employees would answer the question: “How was work?” Be honest. I think the answer would reveal some things about your company culture. Now…how do you WANT your employees to answer the question: “How was work? I think your response here would start a conversation about the type of culture you want.

 

What if we based our goals around company culture on that one question? You probably get asked this question on a regular basis. Perhaps even daily. It’s as routine as “How are you?” or “Good morning.” The answer can go either way depending on the situation. It could be good, bad, or neutral. A series of recent events led me to wonder about the prevalence of this question and about its relation to company culture. Below is one of the events that sparked these thoughts.

 

A Conversation with My Stepdad, Max.

“Hi Shida. I was calling to see how your first day at work was. Mine was FANTASTIC.” My stepdad left this message for me on the evening of October 28. We both started a new job on this same day. We were both excited about our new opportunities and spent the week before getting ready in our own way. For me, that meant getting my car fixed, doing some reading, and getting lots of rest. For him it meant getting his work-related supplies organized, getting a haircut and also getting rest. The night before our first day we checked in with each other. Coincidentally, we’d both signed up to arrive at 7:30 a.m. So by the 9 o’clock hour on the night before, we were preparing for sleep.

 

On the evening of October 28, he called to see how my first day was. His was FANTASTIC. And over the past couple of weeks we’ve continued the check-ins. It was pretty coincidental that we’d resigned around the same time, had some time off in between, and started on the same day. These events have made each of us a little more interested in the others situation. Others have been interested in my new adventures, too. During my first two weeks on the job, friends and fam called every day. The words they spoke were: “How was work today?” But the tone of their voices said: “Do you really like your new job? We really hope you do because we’d hate for you to have made a bad decision so…you like it for real?”

 

I’ve started new jobs before, and each time my loved ones focused on something different. This time around they have been really focused on my contentment – with the office environment, with my team and with the work. The last time around they were concerned about whether or not I could learn from the position. And rewind back to 2007, they were all just happy I’d found a J.O.B. Regardless of the situation though, their probing usually begins with a “How was work?”

 

Keep in mind that this is probably the case with many of your employees, too. So as you continuously muse on your workplace culture, consider that you might be able to cut your meetings on the topic in half by starting with the one question that touches just about everyone: HOW. WAS. WORK?” Once you figure out how you’d want your employees to answer that question you’re halfway there.