Seeing Eye To Eye

On July 25, an editorial in The New York Times lambasted the Republican Party for walking out on President Obama’s meeting concerning the nation’s financial future. Politics aside, the piece pointed out something interesting: a lack of compromise. According to the article, the walkout stemmed from an unwillingness by both parties to reach an consensus.

On August 2, a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling was finally signed into a law. CNN spoke with Fareed Zakaria of Time Magazine on about how the lack of compromise from Tea Party hardliners nearly held the country hostage.

Compromise is a fact of life. As children, we were taught to share. We cannot always have our way, but we can reach an agreement by which we and another party can both be relatively satisfied. Many of us learned compromise by simply sharing our toys and reaping the rewards of community. The same lessons apply when we broker business deals or negotiate decisions with friends and loved ones.

We all have to protect our own interests, and sometimes it’s difficult to find the middle ground. Here are some executive coaching tips for learning how to compromise effectively.

  • Know what the other party wants. Likewise, decide what exactly you want out of an agreement. By knowing exactly what all parties want out of a deal, it will make negotiation smoother.
  • Know when to make concessions. Along with knowing what you want, know what you can let go. It can help if you’re willing to give the other party something they want for something you want.
  • Refrain from a stubborn “my way or the highway” attitude. Listen to others who weigh in on the matter. Ignoring or cutting them off is a sign of disrespect and can put everyone on the defensive.
  • Conversely, don’t tolerate disrespectful behavior from others. Let them know that, if they’re not willing to at least listen to you, you’re not willing to talk.
  • Focus on the situation and resist the urge to judge the people involved. Nothing breaks down communication as badly as throwing around accusations that someone else is being “difficult” or “stubborn” if things aren’t going your way.

If employed from a position of strength and awareness, compromise will prove a much more powerful tool than stubbornness.

JS

 


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Understanding Change in Agriculture and Life

To avoid a global food shortage, changes may be coming to agriculture and food production. According to an article in the New York Times‘s environment section, “A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself,” experts in food cultivation and farming warn of dwindling crops due to climate change.

The rise in temperature is hurting agriculture and causing a rise in food prices. Dwindling food stocks also threaten less fortunate countries with starvation. That is, unless the food business and the food itself change with the times.

Farmers and scientists are creating new innovations in developing crops that can handle the rising temperatures and the sudden changes in weather. (For example, the article examines one Indian farmer’s surprise success with a new variety of rice.) But they stress that our habits and our assumptions about how we eat must adapt to avoid high prices and low yields.

Sudden changes can be daunting, but keep in mind some of these coaching techniques:

  • Keep yourself in the loop regarding technology, the environment and the food we will be eating. Read newspapers and news websites to keep yourself current with what’s happening. Keeping current with today can help you prepare for tomorrow.
  • Plan ahead. If the price of food is higher, alter your budget and your shopping habits to meet those changes.
  • Don’t do anything drastic. Recall that in 1999, some were convinced that computers would go haywire on New Year’s Day 2000, sewing mass chaos. In the end, nothing happened to those who spent way too much buying needless supplies.
  • Understand that everything is subject to change. If you feel anxious about something you don’t understand, then research it for yourself. In the online age, there are countless resources dedicated to everything from basic biology to agriculture.
  • Don’t believe everything you read. Some resources are more objective and reliable than others.

Hero: Elizabeth Taylor

The most recent celebrity death had the silver lining of reminding us of their numerous social and community-oriented accomplishments. The star from the Golden Age of Hollywood Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23 at 79 years old from heart disease. A woman of supreme beauty and grace, Taylor also exhibited enormous philanthropic generosity throughout her life, and is commended as a Full Life Hero for her contributions to both film and society.

Elizabeth Taylor is especially notable for her contributions to AIDS charities, including co-founding the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and for raising more than $270 million for the cause. She was one of the first public figures to speak out against AIDS at a time when many people denied the existence of the disease, and hosting the first AIDS fundraiser in 1984. Taylor also devoted time and money to other philanthropic causes.

What can readers of the Full Life Amplifier Blog learn from Elizabeth Taylor’s life of philanthropy and selflessness?

  • Devote yourself to the causes that have not only personal meaning for you, but also a major impact on others. Taylor first became involved in the fight against AIDS after her friend and frequent costar Rock Hudson announced that he suffered from the disease, but her contributions from this relationship helped more people than she ever knew.
  • All causes deserve attention and effort. Elizabeth Taylor made substantial donations in 2009 to charities for religions other than her own in order to facilitate the education of less-fortunate children. She did not allow differences in religious beliefs to limit her contributions to great causes.
  • Investments and planning can continue your legacy even after your death. Some of Taylor’s jewelry—valued at approximately $150 million—is going to be auctioned off for AIDS charities, continuing her philanthropic streak even after she’s gone.
  • Pay no mind to what the critics may say. Taylor was no stranger to controversy, especially regarding her numerous marriages and extravagant lifestyle. Nevertheless, by all accounts Taylor was happy with her station in life even in her twilight years.

Elizabeth Taylor’s consistent concern with philanthropic endeavors demonstrates her selflessness. She made huge contributions to charities and nonprofits that undoubtedly raised the quality of countless lives. It is a pleasure to honor one of our greatest stars for both her acting and altruistic achievements.

What are your thoughts?

JS

How can we curb the spread of stigma against the overweight?

In a New York Times article called “Spreading Fat Stigma Around the Globe,” it’s being demonstrated that cultural views of obesity are becoming more and more negative. Even in cultures like Puerto Rico where the ideal of beauty has more curves, the tide of public perception about obesity is turning; an increasing number of people are perceiving overweight people as lazy as opposed to being perceived as suffering from a condition resulting from genetic and social circumstances.

It’s easy to be judgmental about an overweight person, especially if their condition is unpleasant or inconvenient for you. But it’s important to remember that genetic factors play an enormous role in a person’s weight, and that losing excess weight takes a great deal of discipline and self-control. Stigmatizing obesity will not help: shame is never a good motivator.

What can you do to avoid developing a judgmental attitude towards the overweight?

  1. Stay respectful towards others by constantly trying to empathize with them. Think about things you’re ashamed of and how mortified you’d be if someone were to draw attention to them. Don’t dwell on this, but at least keep it in mind.
  2. Be polite to overweight people, even if they inconvenience you in some way. For example, many people can recall an occasion where they’ve had to sit next to one on a crowded plane or bus. If your “space” is invaded, consider whether you can politely ask them to move slightly, or if you can discretely ask a flight attendant if you could switch seats. But do not allow yourself to grow rude or impatient as this would further propagate disrespect of the overweight.
  3. Don’t ever draw attention to an obese person’s appearance, which could make the problem worse by raising their levels of self-consciousness.

Resist the temptation to negatively judge others. Obesity is an epidemic, and shaming its victims is counterproductive and belittling. More importantly, it’s never productive to cultivate judgmental attitudes about others, even internally.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Resisting the Falling Education Standards

An article in last Saturday’s New York Times called “College the Easy Way” refers to the falling standards in America’s colleges to discuss the lowering standards of higher education in general. Students are taking easier courses, putting less effort into their studies, partying more, and eventually leaving college without sufficiently developing higher skills like complex reasoning, advanced communication, and critical thinking. It is worrisome that, even in times of skyrocketing tuition and attendance costs, the quality of American college education is in a steady decline. This cheats college students out of the education they’re paying for and students need to take more responsibility to learn and master subjects. More significantly, this trend is extremely dangerous for the American economy.

It’s been a commonly-cited statistic that American school children are less-prepared than their equivalents in other countries, especially Korea and Japan. Now, with the development that standards are falling for college students as well, the future seems all the more bleak. If we can’t teach future generations adequately, they’ll be less and less prepared to compete in the future’s global marketplace. American influence may fall as a result of large numbers of poorly educated college students.

This trend is a two-way street: colleges are allowing classes to become easier, but students still have an influence over the quality of education since they are the customers. Here are some things you can do to get the most out of higher education:

  1. Take difficult and well-taught classes. Not only will they be more intellectually stimulating, they will teach you more and better prepare you for the world after college. Look at teacher ratings before signing up for classes
  2. Forge relationships with professors and teaching assistants. Not only will this make difficult classes more fulfilling, but they may encourage you to do better and go farther with your studies.
  3. Take advantage of extracurricular learning opportunities. Most colleges have guest lectures and seminars from prominent intellectual authorities on a variety of subjects. Attend as many of these seminars as you can to broaden your scope of learning. You can also audit great classes and lectures.
  4. For parents: push your children to be their best and follow the above suggestions. You’re the most significant guiding force in their lives and you can have an important positive influence during college.

College standards might be beginning to let students down, but there are things students and the parents of students can do to resist this trend and work towards educational mastery.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Reacting to Negative Media Portrayals

A recent New York Times article called “The Disposable Woman” explores how the recent Charlie Sheen debacle reflects our culture’s view of women. Whereas it’s popular to view our society as progressive, with female empowerment and equality being touted, there is a marked discrepancy in how the media portrays women. Reality television often shows women as conniving and back-stabbing, and missing white woman syndrome mainstream media portrays women as helpless children. How can women truly be empowered if their media portrayals are so denigrating and insulting?

This dilemma isn’t unique to women. Many minority groups—i.e., racial, religious, or orientation—face the same sorts of discrimination. Using the current discussion of women as an example, here are some things a group receiving negative messages can do to maintain esteem:

  1. Speak out against casual antagonism. Don’t sit quietly while someone makes misogynistic, racist, or homophobic comments or implications. Avoid direct confrontation and calmly ask for explanation and respond maturely to everything they say. You may not change their mind, but you could change the mind of someone else listening.
  2. Question mainstream media coverage of minority groups. These tend to be broadcast through the lens of society in general, so they’re more than likely going to amplify the possibly harmful and disrespectful popular view.

Remember that insecurity lies at the root of most judgments. What are you insecure about? Who can you stop judging?

What are your thoughts?

JS

Hero: Gene Sharp

With the recent uprisings in Libya and Egypt, much of the world’s attention is focused on the ongoing struggle for universal democracy. One understated influence on these movements is the scholar Gene Sharp, an unbelievably humble political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth whose numerous tracts on nonviolent change have greatly inspired freedom seekers around the globe. Sharp’s revolutionary ideas are all the more impressive when one considers his incredible humility and old age. He refrains from taking credit for his influence, giving the Egyptians credit for their actions. The man is a true hero for peacefully advancing the cause of democracy and doing it based entirely on the strength of his ideas.

Sharp’s ideas expand upon those espoused by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In essence, Sharp’s philosophy emphasizes people’s strength in numbers and resilience to oppression. Despite the professor’s lack of experience with the internet, he also touts the use of new media both for organization and informing the world about the joys of freedom and news updates regarding potential oppression and hidden abuses. Though Sharp has his fair share of detractors that criticize his “passivity”, the wide spread reach of his work and the actions they have inspired speak for themselves.

Gene Sharp’s democratic teachings are incredibly admirable, and what’s even more impressive is that they come from such a self-effacing man. This professor is a true hero for his amazing contribution to the evolution of democracy.

What do you think about Sharp’s approach to change?

JS

More New Resources for Entrepreneurs

Last Tuesday, the New York Times ran an article about a kitchen for rent in New York City called “A Kitchen-for-Rent Is a Lifeline for the Laid-Off.” The article explores the benefits offered by the very interesting new business: underfunded chefs and aspiring restauranteurs without access to a kitchen of their own can pay reasonable prices to use top-of-the-line facilities by the hour to either practice their skills or cook up products to sell. The kitchen facilities include just about every basic appliance needed in a modern kitchen, and is kept very clean and in good repair.

This article has three areas of interest for me: for one, it’s a great way to save money and gain experience when starting out specifically in the restaurant industry. Secondly, it’s a great example of the expanded resources available to entrepreneurs afforded by the internet and new levels of creativity. Third, it’s an excellent example of a very unique idea for a business that creatively fulfills a market need while providing an excellent service.

As an entrepreneur myself, I can attest to the merits of services similar to this one. Last week I published a blog post about young entrepreneurs creating their own jobs just out of college, making do with low bank rolls by utilizing internet resources to save money. This is another example of a resource, and proof that it’s not only young entrepreneurs that are taking advantage of the new business world’s opportunities.

Here are a few options to consider while ruminating on entrepreneurial endeavors:

  1. Are there hourly resources for me to utilize like the kitchen-for-rent? Think about a potentially expensive necessity required by your business idea and find out if there’s a cheap way to outsource the investment by renting it or only using it hourly.
  2. Consider how long you’ll have to take advantage of these resources. Will it just be temporary while you build the capital to pay for your own? Or will it by the permanent business model? I, for example, rented an hourly distinguished mailing address and meeting space in Chicago when just starting out with Full Life before moving to our current office in Lincoln Park. You should consider how long this arrangement will last early on in the process.
  3. Calculate which arrangement will be more pragmatic. If you’re planning on keeping the enterprise up for such a long time that it would save you money to, for example, put together your own kitchen, then consider that option.
  4. Don’t be afraid to adapt your plans as events transpire. If business takes off more than expected, consider flexible rental agreements so you can be flexible in how you expand over time.

These types of creative resources have made starting a business easier than ever before, and those with business ideas should re-examine choices with these possibilities in mind.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Possibility: Hillary

Ok, I decided I would write you again on the eve of Labor Day 2010. Not an easy time for Labor these days….

But, sitting here with the real-time, real-paper (not my laptop, Kindle or iPad versions), I lay the New York Times in front of me on this fine Sunday, and I smiled as I read the words, “It may prove the greatest test yet for Mrs. Clinton, one that could cement her legacy as a diplomat if she solves the riddle that foiled even her husband….”

OMG, what an amazing lesson for all regarding the business power of persistence and diversity, which I will be writing a lot about in the future. It seems like yesterday (about seventeen years ago) when Hillary Clinton was the punching bag for leading the health care initiative over ten years ago. Partisan politics aside, look where she is now, the odds on favorite for brokering the major mid-east deal that no one else has accomplished.

This is an amazing position to be in. This is a Leader who gets better at what she does and never gives up. Hillary, thanks for reminding us of what each of us have to do and do again.

Enjoy your Labor Day holiday and visualize how you want to express your labor in the coming year.

JS

Follow-up

As you walk out of the office or home for your weekend holiday, I want to give you some food for thought.

As Labor Day celebrates the return to labor after summer (even though we all know, in these times, many of us either never stopped laboring or are unemployed) I was struck by George Clooney’s humble words as he won the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for his work in disaster relief at the Emmys last Sunday evening:

“The hard part is seven months later, five years later, when we’re on to a new story. Honestly, we fail at that, most of the time. That’s the facts. I fail at that,” Clooney added. “So here’s hoping that some very bright person right here in the room or at home watching can help find a way to keep the spotlight burning on these heartbreaking situations that continue to be heartbreaking long after the cameras go away. That would be an impressive accomplishment. Thank you.”

It made me think about how in our businesses and lives, we also get caught up in new priorities and we let older programs we have implemented get sloppy or die.

That is why when I teach implementation of the five steps of dealing with a crisis or of starting a new program, I include the 5th step below about follow-up.

When you start a new program, follow these 5 steps:

1. INVESTIGATE fully what going on

2. Make accurate CONCLUSIONS

3. Make RECOMMENDATIONS to others

4. Take the appropriate ACTIONS

5. DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW-UP after it’s all in place

Follow-up is one of the greatest challenges of the human race at this time. As things get more and more complicated, there is a need for more solutions. But if we forget that we have to maintain what we have put in place, then nothing will get better at work or in the world. Whether it is learning that if we have an egg-producing chicken operation, it has to be impeccably clean; or if we ask something of our valued employees we have to bother to see how old systems are still working.

So after labor day, take a moment to ask the key people in your family, work place, and community activities, “So, how’s that great program we implemented doing?”. Make a list of all the important systems in your life that you have put in place, and take a moment to check on how they are doing!

Have a great labor day weekend and safe travels!

JS

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