Friday, September 12, 2014

The New York Times and My Wedding Photo

Fun story that I meant to blog about and just never did.

I follow a columnist named Steven Petrow, and last year he posted a question from a reader in the military about how to introduce gay couples. I replied, we struck up a conversation, and he asked if I would be okay with him using my wedding photo in a future column.

Of course, I said yes. And he did. And just like that, my wedding photo appeared in the digital issue of the New York Times. And it's awesome that I get to say that.

How To Introduce A Gay Couple

Full disclosure time. I did not retire from the Marine Corps and I was not a commissioned officer. Mr. Petrow is not familiar with military terminology and misunderstood when I said that I was an NCO. No harm, no foul, but I do not want to claim service that I did complete.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Quality over Quantity.

I've been spending time this week trying to sort out what is going on with me and my bad attitude. I don't feel comfortable in my own skin and I'm bothered by so many things that normally wouldn't even make my radar, and I need to work out a solution.

And then, just like that, a single post on Facebook smacks me in the head and helps me reframe everything.

The post itself is simple enough. A man changed his behavior on Facebook, choosing to no longer click the LIKE button on anything. Instead, he either scrolled right by or took the time to leave a comment. And he shared how that simple step changed his Facebook experience for the better.

That seems straightforward enough and I'm going to try doing the same. In the first two minutes of using Facebook after reading the article, I could already see a difference. Instead of clicking LIKE for the 10-15 things I read, I had to be selective and respond to the two that I felt most drawn to.

And it was immediately better. In one instance where I know I would have just clicked LIKE, I took a moment to articulate exactly what it was about my friend's comment that I appreciated and how I saw the same situation. And a dialog started that would not have if I had done my normal click-and-go.

Instead of clicking LIKE for everything and moving on, I'm choosing one or two opportunities to truly engage with people. Quality over quantity.

And here's the bigger wake-up call for me. This idea can work for me outside of Facebook, too. 

For example, when it comes to social events, I go with the "more is better" attitude. If we're meeting friends for brunch, my norm is to invite lots of people and create a big event. But I realize that, while fun, it's difficult for me to engage in any meaningful way with all those people at the same time. It's just not possible to have that many significant conversations in so short a time and with such a large group.

Instead of inviting everyone all the time, I'm going to be more selective about the people I ask to join me when I am planning a social event. With fewer friends present, I can give more of my attention to each person. Quality over quantity.

And this is a rather timely shift in behavior. All summer, I have been planning to run the Venture Marathon on Sunday, September 7th. But recently, my running buddy and I decided that we are going to switch events and run the Ventura Half Marathon, instead.

Why? Because while we both know we could run the full 26.2 miles, we also know that neither of us has trained sufficiently to run a strong marathon. We would struggle through the long miles, end up exhausted and possibly injured, and feel bad about the entire event.

A better idea? We run a stronger half marathon, enjoy the miles and the experience, and then set up a new training plan as we look ahead to the Phoenix Marathon next February.

Run fewer miles but do them stronger and happier. Quality over quantity.

I'm making choices that are good for me, and hopefully, will also help improve my relationships with my friends. And friends... true, good friends that support me as I try to make better choices... are definitely proof of quality over quantity.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No Problems Without Solutions

Have you seen the latest horrible video/image/story about ThisMan/ThatWoman/ThosePeople?

If you're on Facebook, the answer is most likely yes. Someone you follow has been "alerted" to something mean, illegal, immoral, or cruel, and they want you to see it, too.

The stories are everywhere. Just look!

Hypocrites pontificating!
Companies violating!

Bigots discriminating!
Scandals... um... scandal-ating!

I get it. These are bad things happening and your friends want you to know about them.

But why?

What's the point, exactly? What good does it do to learn about these things if you are powerless to change them?

Ah... but what if you *could* do something about them? That would change things, wouldn't it? Instead of just being a bystander and mumbling "tsk, tsk" under your breath, imagine being able to take actions to make bad situations better.

Well, all of this talk about "your friends" and the things they post isn't about other people at all. It's about me. I have been the person posting these links and ranting and raving about the bad people and the terrible things. But if I'm not doing anything else, it makes no sense to post at all.

My solution? No more posting stuff like this unless I also include a very specific, very direct call to action. If I read that a retailer is discriminating against a group of people, I will take the time to look up a corporate contact, share that address or email with my friends, and write a letter myself to the company explaining why I am bothered and what I expect them to do. If I read about legislation (proposed or enacted) that concerns me, I need to make sure that my elected officials hear from me directly. When I share the story on Facebook, I'll include a request to friends to contact their own representatives. And if I hear about something local that I think deserves more attention, I'll reach out to area news teams and encourage them to report on it.

My point is, instead of just railing against stupidity... and really, I'm preaching to the choir when I post on Facebook... I will identify specific actions that can be taken and make it easy for my friends to follow my lead.

Yes, there are problems in the world. But fixing them requires more than just me complaining about them on social media. Actions are what lead to solutions.

Oh, and if you see me forget this pledge, say something. I won't be perfect but I can always get better.