MUSIC, LEADERSHIP, CULTURE… and humor (sometimes)

Culture

On Kind Words

Hey Everybody,

It’s been forever and a day since my last post.  This blog is not dead.  It just woke up from hibernation like a bear in winter.  A very long, cold winter.  A very long, cold winter in Antarctica.  Which is pretty much winter all year long.  So now we’re moving out of Antarctica and moving into Southern California.  Which is where I live now. . . shall I go on?

Just a quick thought about kind words.

Funerals are sad, we can all agree on that right?  You know what makes funerals doubly sad?  The fact that the kind words and eulogies given will never be heard by the person who passed away.  The tragedy of “I never got a chance to say . . . ” is an absolute killer.

Going-away parties, last-day-at-work parties, etc are also pretty sad.  A lot of “I have always wanted to tell you this but … ” and “I wish we got to know each other…” or “I think you’re super hot” are kind words that almost sting when you consider the possibility that they might have meant a lot more had they been shared before you ever mentioned leaving!  (Side note: I also feel incredibly awkward when some of the parting words get a little out of hand.  Things like, “You were always my favorite” or “You single-handedly changed my life forever” or “You complete me” are never as much fun to hear when they feel like desperate euphemisms for “Sorry I never gave you the time of day.  Like ever.”  Just for the record, I have never heard these words said to me before so no harm done.  Phew!)

It’s unfortunate that we often save our kindest, best words for when it is almost (or is) too late.  There’s no harm in looking at the people who mean something to you square in the eye once in a while to let them know that they freakin’ rock. I think this is one of many things we could do right away to make this world a better place.

So tell me: What are some “parting words” you heard that made you feel ridiculous?  On the converse, what are some in-the-moment-when-it-matters words you heard that totally breathed new life into you? 


Osama is Dead. Celebrate good times?

Maybe you’re like me and you first heard about Osama Bin Laden’s death through Facebook, Twitter, or CNN . . . and if you’re really like me, you probably felt a strange sense of relief and retribution.  His death felt like good news. Initially.

But maybe you’re like me now and you’re wondering, wait a minute…why is this really good news? 

Because the person we say was responsible for the death of thousands on September 11, 2001 is now dead and somehow this makes everything better? 

Through his death, will the thousands of lives lost on that horrible day be restored?  Easter resurrection style?

Will the lives of the families who lost loved ones be that much better now?

Is this somehow the end of terrorism?

Is the ever-expanding, ever-autonomous Al Qaeda network suddenly going to call it quits now that their fearless leader is gone?

If the answer to all the questions above are “Yes,” then maybe it is time to celebrate.

Unfortunately, I can confidently say that all the answers to the questions are “No.” 

As long as this is the case, I don’t know what all this celebration is about. . .

. . . Especially when so many of us talk about and value love, grace, forgiveness, peace, and compassion. 

Yes, he did unspeakably wicked things and he needed to be captured and brought to justice.

But at the end of the day, we are celebrating a murder.  And it’s just a little unsettling to me.

So, why are you celebrating?  Help me understand, will ya?


The End of 40 Days! A Best Of…

My pledge to blog everyday for 40 days has come to a close!  I want to thank those of you who have checked in periodically to journey with me in my writing.  I hope that it was as fun, interesting, and inspiring for you to read as it was for me to write!

I wanted to close this chapter by recapping the past few weeks with links to some of my favorite posts (based on your responses as well as my personal enjoyment in writing them!)

Today also marks the end of the iTunes Card giveaway contest.  I will announce the 2 winners tomorrow!

Here are the best of the last 40 days in no particular order:

My American Idol (Guessed) Rankings

Share in the Japanese Sadness

The UCLA Racist Girl

Humility

A Letter to Charlie Sheen from the future

Judging

Putting Heaven on Hold

Three Cups of BS?

The most read post out of all of them?  It was the one about the UCLA Racist girl.  Apparently racism and regrettable youtube videos make for interesting reads!

So I would like to know, which was your favorite?  Any thoughts on future topics I should attempt to address? 



3 Cups of B.S.?


I remember we had a deep discussion in the 8th grade about lying and we debated whether or not there are times when lying is ok.  We came to the conclusion that if we were living in Hitler’s Germany and we were hiding our Jewish neighbors, it would be ok to lie if the Nazi soldiers ever came knocking on our door to ask of their whereabouts.  This was the only scenario I could remember from our talk that day.

If the good outweighs the bad by a God-sized margin, I’m all for lying; especially if it means that I can save a life.

I wonder if this is what Greg Mortenson’s logic was as he wrote Three Cups of Tea, a New York Times best seller that is now under fire for allegations of falsehood. The controversy about the validity of many of his accounts, including an alleged kidnapping by the Taliban, has stirred a world-wide outrage by all who have read and felt their lives changed by this book.

[Read the CNN article here to get the lowdown]

Mortenson sold over 3 millions copies of the book in 47 different languages worldwide.  To say that this book is pretty influential would be like saying Brad Pitt is just ok-looking.  This book is a world-wide sensation and Brad Pitt makes it acceptable for heterosexual men to justify their strange feelings with the phrase “man-crush.”

I have not read the book but fortunately, many anecdotes from this book have been shared in our staff meetings by my friend this past month as a way to inspire and move our leadership.  Personally, the timing of this scandal couldn’t be more coincidental and peculiar!

As I ponder the ramifications of this controversy, I have developed my own set of FAQs that I consider my Three Cups of B.S:

1.  So he lied (allegedly).  What’s the big deal?  Authors, journalists, and reporters do this all the time!

I’ve honestly thought this.  What really is the big deal?  I guess the answers are somewhat obvious.  If this was an obscure book on the dusty shelves of a dollar bookstore, nobody would care.  The fact that over 3 million people purchased and read this book (along with countless other cheapskates who borrowed their friends’ copies) makes this a lie that is hard to swallow and make go-away.  The more people buy into your words and leadership, the greater your need for accountability.  Let’s take a line from Spiderman and satisfy my point:With great power comes great responsibility.” 

2.  Can’t we just start over and call this a work of Fiction?  Re-organize this book’s placement on the Dewey Decimal System?  It’s still a good book.

That’s what makes this controversy so difficult.  So much of what he’s written seems to be true. . .  and if it is not, it has to be true now.  Or does it?  Through the words and accounts in this book, millions were inspired and felt compelled to give to Mortenson’s non-profit.  Much-needed schools were built in Pakistan and Afghanistan as a result of the money that was raised.  I wonder: if this much good has been done for a group of people that the world had previously chosen to ignore, how could this scenario possibly be bad?  The book accomplished its mission did it not?  Read on to the next question.

3.  What is this REALLY about?

Money.  Plain and simple, this is an issue of money.  According to the CNN report, in 2009 Mortenson’s organization only used 41% of the $14 million that was raised to actually build and fund the schools.  The disbursement of the rest of the funds seems a little dubious. One would also have to wonder if his books would have sold the number it did if it was a work of fiction.

Bottom Line

If this was a controversy about just a few inaccurate stories and details in the book, I’m personally “ok” with it.  Not to say that I don’t believe in honesty and integrity in all works of art!  I believe that Mortenson’s book accomplished more good than bad–that people were inspired to examine and change their own lifestyles while broadening their scope of the global need is nothing short of a miracle!

I truly believe that Mortenson’s motives were/are good.  He discovered a need and he found a way to creatively fill it, using the only thing he had of worth in this regard: his stories from the ground.

Along the way, if the fund-raising became a little too successful for Mortenson to handle and the transparency and integrity in how all of the money was being spent became a lesser priority, this is unfortunate.

That being said, this is a lesson in honesty and openness, a possible debate on how lies have the potential to perform good (and if this is ultimately “ok”), and a possible example of how money corrupts.  I say possible because Greg Mortenson is still innocent until proven guilty.  We have to give him that much.

Whether this is relevant for our discussion now or not, I want to say for the record: if I was housing a family of Jews in my home as they run from the Nazis, I would lie my butt off to protect this family.  In fact, I would do more.  Is this how desperately Greg felt the need to assist these families in Afghanistan and Pakistan?  Who knows . . .


I Love Sports . . . but not THIS much

I think fanaticism is great.  Everyone needs a healthy obsession to get more out of life.

Those who know me best know that I’m one of the biggest Laker fans out there.

My buddy always reminds me of the time we were watching an intense tape-recorded game (pre-DVR era) in our dorm room our freshman year in school.  He had fallen asleep only to be woken up in the 4th quarter to the sound of hollering and rousing applause which is otherwise normal when sports is involved—if it wasn’t for the fact that I was the only other person in the room and the standing ovation was from me.  Just me.

Several years later when the Lakers lost game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Celtics after blowing a 24 point lead, I literally went on a rampage.  I stormed out of our apartment and started punching the walls and screaming into the air while attempting to suppress my anger the best I could by biting my fists.  With shame I admit that I lost my salvation for a good 30 minutes that night and my wife was horrified.  God bless her soul.

Over the years, my wife has played a big part in toning my fanaticism down, possibly for the better.  Now that I have a baby boy whose nap and sleeping schedules run through Laker games, I have gotten really good at screaming into pillows and silent fist-pumping to suppress my frustration and joy respectively.

So this brings me to the sad story of Bryan Stow.

Bryan is currently in a medically induced coma after suffering a brutal attack at the hands of some idiots who didn’t agree with his choice of garb.  This was not a gang fight though it sounds like one.  Bryan is a San Francisco Giants fan and he thought he would show his support for the team by wearing a Giants jersey . . . to Dodger Stadium.  This sounds like a bad idea but people do it all the time and when others say “You’d better watch your back!  You got a lotta nerve wearing that here!” it’s normally done in good humor.

Bryan was attacked after the game at Dodger Stadium and now his children are on the verge of losing their father.  It is senseless and tragic.

I love basketball but not this much.

It’s scary to think that things like this take place almost every day.  Think of all the horrible things that are done to other human beings in the name of defending a flag, a set of values, or whatever it is that we choose to place our allegiance or trust in.

As much as we want to identify with Bryan Stow in this story, the lesson is not “be careful what you wear to the ball park.”  It is rather, “beware of the outcome of your fanaticism.”

Think about  your obsessions and consider whether or not one or more of these cause more harm than good… to you and those around you.  It might be time to make some changes.

The Dodger fans who beat Bryan Stow might have benefited from a good, serious confrontation from one of their loved ones when they punched their HD TV after every loss.  (I admit that this is a major assumption on my end but maybe not a very far-fetched one)

It’s often painful for me to suppress my emotions during Laker games but for the sake of my marriage, I’ll take the emotional constipation.