Tuesday, November 13, 2018

49 of 58 for 58: Engage Others As They Are, Not How You Believe Them to Be

Sometimes you know a lot about a person long before you meet them. They might be famous--perhaps even legitimately so. Or they know people you know. Or you travel in similar circles. Or you've simply heard about them and their work via word of mouth. 

Sometimes you hear great things about others. Sometimes what you hear isn't very flattering. Sometimes it's even malicious. 

None of this information matters one iota when you meet them in person, however. 

I strive not to automatically believe what I read or hear about other people, good or bad. I rely on meeting them real-time. The one-on-one connection renders the rest of the story largely moot. The glitz, glamor, or other trappings of a reputation well-cultivated diminish in importance. 

As a result, I'm usually surprised. The individual is not who I thought they would be, based on my prior knowledge. It goes to show you the value of showing up for people as you are, and in turn being open to them in the same fashion. Without preconditions or expectations, that is. 

That's why even after learning whatever I can about someone I'm about to meet, I put it all aside before we connect. I'd like to hope people who are meeting me for the first time take the same approach. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

48 of 58 for 58: Sometimes, You Have to Take Off the Gloves and Fight Back

Sometimes you get pushed. Hard. Maybe just once. Maybe several times. Perhaps over a period of years. 

You sit back and take it. You turn the other cheek. "You can't argue with irrational people," you say. "Besides, if I said or did anything they'd just retaliate." Or you simply decide to play by the rules. Regardless, everyone has their limits. And you've finally reached yours. 

Then you decide it's time to take off the gloves. It's time to fight back. You can no longer condone what's been happening. The feeling in your gut tells you it's time to act. 

Now, mind you, I'm not talking about a physical fight. Or any other violent acts for that matter. I'm not talking about wildly lashing out at the subject of your pain. I'm not talking about being mean-spirited, vindictive, or passive aggressive. 

I'm talking about standing up for yourself. Drawing a line in the sand and proclaiming, "Here I am. I will no longer accept how you treat me. You're out of line. Here are the ways you've been so. Please stop. Leave me alone."

And in your mind you hear the faint echo of the words, "no more." 

Now, even your best sentiments may not have their desired impact. Your passionate, articulate plea may fall on deaf ears. That's unfortunate, but not necessarily fatal. Because you've established and committed to defend a boundary. The other party knows it. They may not like it. They may not accept it. But they have little choice to acknowledge it. 

And you no longer have to live in fear and anxiety. You no longer have to concern yourself with them. You've stated what you want and need. And absolutely no one can undermine the steadfastness of your conviction. You're proactive, and no longer reactive. In short, you now act consistently and confidently, your feet planted firmly on the ground.  

You've taken off your boxing gloves. You're fighting back. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

47 of 58 for 58: Strive Relentlessly to Understand Context

My current actions fall somewhere on a continuum that spans multiple dimensions. These dimensions are enlivened by different, distinct contexts.

There's the context of my entire life, starting with my birth and continuing to the present day. Specifically, it encompasses thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as I navigate my surroundings. It's inspired by my ongoing interpretation and reinterpretation of the narrative of my life. 

Then there's the physical context; that is, where I live, play, and work. 

Finally, there's the context provided by the world around me. I'm one individual along for the ride on the grand carousel of history. That encompasses the past, present, future, and my ongoing efforts to make sense of them. 

Ignoring these layers of context hurts me. When I do so I feel alone, isolated, and even insignificant. Facile attempts to understand them do not serve me so well either.  

To live a full, rich life means I embrace these contexts wholeheartedly. I work to understand them. I work hard to make sense of my worlds. I draw on my knowledge and insight. I commit to investigate further as needed. At the same time, I dismiss superficial analyses. I reject attempts to compare that obfuscate rather than illuminate. 

My life is meaningless without understanding and embracing its contexts. So, I strive relentlessly to do so, every day.

Friday, November 2, 2018

46 of 58 for 58: Pick a Lane

The setting was the 2004 National Speakers Association annual convention. Keynote speaker Joe Calloway exhorted attendees to rethink their businesses. "You can't be all things to all people," he exclaimed. "Pick a lane."

The concept stuck, even during the years after the event when I steadfastly veered from one lane to the next. Finally, I got it. 

When you're scrambling to pay the bills, you feel you need to do whatever it takes. 

Can you speak on topic X? Absolutely!

Can you put together a workshop on topic Y? Definitely!

Can you write a white paper on topic Z? Yes, bring it on!!

Sure, you might be able to competently complete each of these projects. But do you really want to? Would you put in the time and energy to excel? In short, would you love doing it? Or do you see it as a stop-gap while entertaining thoughts of doing other kinds of work?

I've found myself in situations where I felt I had to say "yes" to any and all opportunities that came my way. But the stress of doing so wore me down.

How could I possibly communicate to prospects that I could handle anything they threw at me? 

I couldn't. Because I couldn't identify such "prospects," for starters. 

Moreover, in doing so I'd communicate my lack of focus. Sure, perhaps I'd be willing to work for any dollar amount (within reason). But I couldn't stake a legitimate claim to any kind of expertise. Especially when compared to others who had chosen a lane.

It's a relief, actually, to pick your lane and stay in it. When work comes, I know right away whether it's right for me--or not. And more importantly, I'm excited about doing it.


Monday, October 29, 2018

45 of 58 for 58: You Can Always Be Clearer

I aim to be as crystal clear as possible in my writing and speaking. I like to think I do a pretty good job. But as I repeatedly must learn, I can always do better.

My best intentions don't matter. I cannot create a mind meld with intended audiences during my communication. That's not the way communication works. There's lots of competition for my message. Even if I'm able to cut through this noise, my message may be misunderstood.

I also sometimes forget that I am not my audience. They don't know what I know. They don’t believe what I believe.  In other words, my ego can lead me to project my worldview onto my audience. I fall short in communicating with them as a result. 

In short, what's crystal clear to me often isn’t so to my audience. So, I continue to strive to be clearer. Because to be an effective communicator demands nothing less. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

44 of 58 for 58: Even when the gauge reads empty, there’s still some gas in the tank

When I saw the gas pump symbol light up on my car’s dashboard, I freaked out. I was in the middle of a long drive with my wife, on an unfamiliar stretch of freeway. The nearest gas station was approximately 10 miles away according to Google Maps. 

I wouldn’t make it. I’d leave us stranded in the cold, dark night, on the freeway shoulder. And a tow truck would take forever to arrive.

About three quarters of the way into my freak out, my wife calmly stated, “Mitchell, it’s not empty. There’s still enough gas in the tank for us to make it to that station. The light is simply a warning sign. Relax.”

And so it was. And she was right.

I’ve engaged in similar bouts of catastrophic thinking periodically throughout my life. I was done. Finished. There was nothing else I could do. 

But there always was, if I only I would step back. Observe the situation with calm, cool detachment. Relax (even if just a bit).

Inevitably, I’d identify a next step. Sometimes it would seem insignificant, other times not so much. Regardless, the effort kickstarted the project. I was able to chart a path to completion.

I had something left—sometimes a lot, sometimes just a little. I hadn’t reached a dead end after all. I could access an untapped pocket of energy and inspiration. It lay there, waiting for me to summon it.

Now I know there’s always something left in my gas tank—and in my car’s as well. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

43 of 58 for 58: Deal Only With Fears of Your Own Making

To date I’ve collected enough fears to last me for the rest of my life. While their most acute impacts have dissipated, I still experience them.

There are the big existential ones: fears of growing old, being alone, and dying.

Then there are the more mundane ones. These include fear of dealing with anything mechanical (e.g., cars, computers). 

In one form or another, I confront these fears every day. The good news is that I name and deal with each of them to the best of my ability.

But there’s a whole other category of fears I also encounter. They’re stoked by politicians and others. They advocate for their point of view by conjuring up worst case scenarios. No matter how far-fetched they may seem, these fears play to my deepest concerns. More importantly, the politicians implore me to relinquish my preoccupation by supporting them. In other words, I should let someone else deal with the fears so I don’t have to.

That’s not my approach. I don’t outsource my fear management. I confront and deal with fears that impact my life. 

Besides, I don’t need anyone else’s fears. I have plenty of my own. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

42 of 58 for 58: Support Your Professional Association


I’ve belonged to more than 25 professional organizations over the course of my career.

Why? I believe in supporting the associations that serve professions I claim to be a member of. Currently, that’s two. One is public relations. The other is teaching/consulting in business communications.

This commitment means I don’t just belong. I serve too. I help with registration. I moderate panels. I speak. I offer to review conference submissions.

I’ve always done what I can given my other personal and professional commitments. I must.

How can I claim membership in a professional organization if I don’t act to support its efforts? I cannot.

Professional associations flounder when members don’t volunteer. Programs aren’t developed and promoted. Members leave. New members aren’t recruited. It’s painful to watch.

When these associations wither away, practitioners have nowhere to go to break bread. To discuss common challenges. To find new opportunities. To reconnect with friends and make new ones.

I’ve seen how the profession suffers when its association die. No one speaks for individual practitioners. No one advocates for best practices.

For all these reasons, I support my professional associations.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

41 of 58 for 58: Don't Wait for Things to Happen

It's the time of year when I begin to reflect on the year's developments. I review my vision board. I note accomplishments. I identify areas where I made some progress towards achieving goals. 

Then, finally, I come to those outcomes I've told myself I want but have done little to make happen. In fact, I've been waiting for these things to happen.

I somehow believe that putting my wish out to the universe will help me to manifest what I want. Or perhaps I'll do a modicum of work. I'll send an email or two. Make a phone call. Even speak with someone live and in-person.

But the fact remains that I'm not doing the work that I know needs to be done. The work I'm engaged in wishful thinking. I'm waiting for someone else to respond, possibly even to take the lead.

I'm waiting for things to happen.

I know from experience that my waiting will only beget more waiting. My inertia builds on itself. It's harder for me to get going; my goal remains ever more elusive.

That's why I cannot wait. I need to get into action. I need to do something. Because otherwise things won't happen. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

What the Academic Literature Says about the Role of the Public Information Officer (PIO)

As I've noted in a blog post earlier this year, I've immersed myself in a study on the role of the Public Information Officer (PIO), particularly in emergency situations. To date, I've captured my research in two articles. One reviews academic literature on the PIO. The second is a pilot study. It's based on interviews PIOs from throughout California about their work during emergencies.

I presented the former article on Saturday, October 6, 2018 at the Public Relations Society of America Educators Academy. Read the abstract. Listen to my presentation. 

A peer-reviewed journal is currently considering the literature review for publication. I will provide updates here about its publication status.

I'm currently writing up results of the pilot study. I will also submit them for publication by a peer-reviewed journal. 

Stay tuned for future posts about my ongoing research into the work of PIOs.