Sunday, July 14, 2013

Personal Change: Two Key Learnings from Zimmerman/Martin Altercation

First, I want to make it clear that I believe the death of Trayvon Martin is one of the most tragic real-life scenarios I have heard.  Everyone loses! The entire situation is terrible, and I would imagine that the Martin and Zimmerman families will be affected by this event for decades to come. I feel very sorry for the loss of life and range of emotions that come with an event such as this.  I’m sure many people have and are continuing to reflect on what could have been done differently to have a different outcome. But the reality is we can’t change what was done: we can only learn from it and move forward.

The United States Legal System is an interesting thing – complicated and oft times misunderstood.  I believe it is a system that most Americans do not even begin to understand. The legal system is designed to uphold the laws of the land (state or federal laws). It’s a system that is designed to ensure that the accused receive a fair trial and are able to defend themselves. The system was not designed to judge on emotion, conscious, or preconceived notions. It was designed to uphold the laws of the land.  In the aftermath of this trial, many may initial disagree but, when we step away from the emotion of it all, it is true that we want judges and juries to determine outcomes based on law (i.e. same-sex marriage, abortion).

Now, I could spend my time poking through all the problems I saw with the legal case as well as all the failed logic and ignorance that has been used in the media whether it comes from a spectator or a media professional. Some examples of this include: referring to Zimmerman as Caucasian when he is Hispanic; accusing Zimmerman as profiling Martin but not the fact that both of them profiled each other; and the list could go one. But what good would that do now? The real question is: what can we, as a society, learn from this situation?

No matter what side of the legal case you were on (State of Florida or Zimmerman), I see two great lessons we can learn. The first is that we must be more committed to rejecting violence. We fill our lives and our children’s lives with violence.  Just look at the media we watch (i.e. movies, TV commercial, video games). Violence is everywhere. We argue about the tools used in violence (e.g. guns) but we rarely, if ever, discuss the real causes of violence – hate, anger, envy,  mental illness.  I know way too many people who are looking for a fight. They are looking for something to be mad about. They are looking for injustices. They are looking to be tough, cool, or a “bad a$$.” Nothing good comes from violence and we should avoid it at all cost and teach our children to do the same.

If we want true peace in our communities, we need to replace our fear, anger, hate, etc. with love. We need to teach ourselves and our children how to love, how to have more compassion and how to have empathy for others.  In essence, we must practice the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” (See Holy Bible, John 15:10-12) We need to spend less time on our sofas and computers and more time serving our neighbors. We need to spend more time giving people the benefit of the doubt, understanding our differences and embracing our commonalities. In my experience, the fastest way you can learn to genuinely love another person(s) is through serving them. Service doesn't have to be big extravagant service projects. Simple acts of kindness can include a friendly smile, a simple hello, bringing a garbage can up from the curb, or giving someone your seat on the train. Service doesn't have to be difficult.

Communication is one of the top three stumbling blocks that my clients trip over when trying to effectively manage change. Why is that? I have come to the conclusion that one’s ability to communicate is a dying skill. Sure, lots of people know how to talk, shout and scream. We see that on daily talk shows all the time and in our own personal lives. How many times have you thought or actually complained out loud that someone misunderstood what you meant by some action or statement you made?

Effective communication is a two part process: speaking and listening. Often times we just don’t speak when we should. My 15 year-old son often says things like “[insert name] hates me.”  Upon further inquiry, the conversation goes something like this:

Me: Why do you think he hates you? Did he tell you that?
Son: No, I just know.
Me: Well, did you do something to give him reason to hate you?
Son: No. But I am sure he has his reasons.
Me: I think you just made this up in your head.
A couple of weeks pass by.
Me: So, I saw you talking to [insert name].  Does he still hate you?
Son: No. He didn't hate me. He was just being weird and not talking to me that day.

Now this may seem like a trivial example, but I can give you example after example of situations where a lack of communication caused someone to make some off-based conclusion. Just think of how different this situation could have been if a conversation of understanding actually occurred?  What if George had asked Trayvon if he lived in the neighborhood or if Trayvon had asked George why he was following him? They may have ended up having a conversation opposed to a fight that led to death.

I love Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit #5 is my favorite habit and states: “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”  This is where active listening comes into play. We need to learn to listen to each other. Instead of thinking about what you are going to say next, practice listening to what someone is saying. Follow up with probing questions and statements that indicate understanding and that enables a person to clarify if the understanding is wrong. We need to teach our children these skills so that they too can be an effective communicator.

We can spend hours talking and complaining about the short-comings of society. We can call on government to get more involved. But, the reality of it all is that things will not change until we have a change of heart. Societal change comes from a collection of individual changes. Individuals need to take responsibility and make a change within their own heart and then help others to do the same.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Guatemala Update

So I have been a total slacker in posting items on change, but life has been so crazy. Tomorrow I leave to go to Guatemala. Eight months of planning for me is going to be actualized this week. I'm excited for the experience and trying to enjoy the journey. We have raised several hundred thousand dollars of cash and supplies. I don't know the grand total but we just learned this week that we received a $30,000 grant from the LDS Humanitarian office. We will be able to buy furniture for the school. The real amazing this is that this group accomplished this as a part time effort. Well, I bought a new camera to take down with me. I will have results to report in about 2 weeks.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Political Changes in Peru

So as many of you know, I have spent about the past two month in Peru, mainly in Lima. Living in a developing country is very interesting, and I wonder sometimes if it is not similar to how it must have been living in the States around the turn of 20th Century. I will have to say that the images, that came to mind when I read "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair, have been somewhat a reality here in Peru.

Just last week, the Peruvian government called a state of emergency in Lima as protesters came to the Capitol to express their disgust with some of the activity the government is leading in the Amazon. Here is a link that gives more insight to what is going on:

The cool thing about this story is that the Peruvian people are standing up for their rights and their beliefs. They are not allowing the government to complete injustices, and they are creating change. My applause goes out the indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon. I hope we all can learn from their example and have the same type of courage as they have shown.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thoughts on Leading Change

Last night I attended the DC's chapter of Brigham Young University's Management Society dinner gala. During last the event, the group presented President Henry B. Eyring with the Distinguished Public Service Award. After receiving the award, President Eyring addressed the group. His speech was very thought provoking as he talked about leadership, specifically about what makes others have the desire to follow someone.

He gave expamples from years of observations about different type of "effective" leaders. These were not always CEOs or Presidents of organizations, but "regular" people leading groups to accomplish the tasks at hand. Some of these examples included times of great change. From my professional experience, I have observered that effective change is only actualized when there is strong visible leadership from all levels of the organization. But how does this leadership become cultivated. President Eyring suggested that motivating people to follow a leader is when mutual trust and integrity are cultivated within the group. People follow others when they trust that individual's character and integrity.

As we look to change our sphere of the world, are we effective leaders? Are we trustworthy? Do we instill our trust in others? Do we have integrity in everything we do? This is the self examination that I need to do as I look tohelp promote change and improvements in my sphere of influence. I challenge you to do the same.

Community Clean-up

Yesterday, I spent 4 hours scouring a half mile segment of the Potomac Riverbed along the Four-mile Run trail. The weather was beautiful, sunny and the perfect temperature. I participated in this activity in conjunction with my church congregation's community service outreach activities. We had 58 people come to help clean-up the riverbed which was a phenomenal turnout. We also had all ages helping in the effort from around 2 years old to 60s.

What was super cool about the event was that not only did church members come and participate but also members of the community who were not members of our congregation. It was so fun to meet neighbors and work together to make the trail a more pleasant place. I was particularily impressedby two young boys (who lived in the next county) came to join our efforts. As they were waiting for their mother to pick them up, I chatted with them about their experience during the morning hours. They talked about all the random things they found, about falling into the water (which I actually wouldn't be surprised if they did that on purpose), and how many bags of trash and recycleables they filled. They came to help in order to get extra credit for school but what was interesting was that they both agreed that they had fun. I was shocked when one boy said, "It was so fun cleaning up the river and a lot better option than sitting at home watching tv or playing video games." (I'm not making this up...promise.)

Another cool thing that happened often as we picked up trash was that as bikers and joggers passed us they would often call down a "thank you" for our efforts. Others would also inquire about what our group was and how we organized this activity.

We collected around 100 bags of trash and recyclables and we could have kept going. There is still much more to do along the river, but every effort helps us get a bit closer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Website up and going...

So we finally launched our website for the Guatemala project. If you want more details, check out the site: We're also sponsoring a 5k fundraiser in Rosslyn so if your in the DC area let me know and I will give you the details.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Comcast triggers change of thought

So an interesting thing happened this week. My Comcast cable box stopped working on Tuesday. At first I thought maybe it was unplugged, but unfortunately the problem was not that simple. So in effort to resolve the problem, I got online with Comcast eChat to find a solution. I had two options: wait a minimum of a week to get a technician to come to my home to replace my current box, or I could go down to Comcast to switch it out myself. Weighing the options and knowing that I really want to watch American Idol, the solutions was easy -- field trip to Comcast. Scenario in point: It's Friday evening around 6:30. The local Comcast office is located in a rather dingy strip mall on the south side of Alexandria. I walk into the office to find a line six people deep, two people sitting behind the Comcast desks with only one of them helping people. Ugh! This is going to be a wait I thought to myself. While in line, the wait seemed slower than molasses dripping down the side of a maple tree. The Comcast employees appeared less than concerned to speedily help the people in the growing line which was to the door at this point. Customers around me were growing more and more impatient and began voicing their annoyance. As I listened to the noise around me, I found that I was becoming annoyed as well and became more and more concerned about the time. At this point, another Comcast employee came to the front and began assisting customers. As I watched the Comcast representatives help the people in front of me, I started to think how bummed they must be to have to work until 9 pm on a Friday night. I would be extremely bummed as I was itching to leave work at 3:30 just earlier that day. So instead of being rude and impatient as some of my neighbors were being I chose to smile and be nice when it was my turn to go to the window. I had a pleasant exchange with customer service representative and she was extremely helpful in resolving my problem. I was on my way shortly after 7 pm with a working cable box. So I am sure you're asking yourself: what does this have to do with changing the world? Well, this example of how simple it is to do exactly that -- change the world. We all have a choice to smile, be nice and give someone the benefit of the doubt or we chose to be impatient, rude and short-tempered. People respond to how we act. Just simply giving someone a break and being nice can be a catalyst to a changing world. A world where people are kinder, happier and fun to be around.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Guatemala Project Update

So we are four and a half months out from heading down to Guatemala and I am getting very excited. Last week we had a fundraising event and raised $1200 for supplies. This was amazing especially since we pulled it together in two weeks. I wish I could take credit but it wasn't my idea or work, but the group putting it together did an amazing job.

So the activity was a mocktail party (we're non-drinkers) with mixed drinks and hor d'ouevres. It was a black tie event at an elegant home with a $5 cover charge. Live music, lots of people and mingling. During the event, we showed a video about the Guatemala trip and asked for donations. Great fun was had by all and we earned enough money to buy supplies for the school we will help build.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Easy Way to make a change

So Spring is in the air, at least in Washington DC it is. For many people that means "spring cleaning." I know in the next couple of weeks I will be doing a lot of cleaning and packing around my place, and I think it is safe to assume that many others will do the same as they pack up their winter clothes and equipment and pull out their spring/summer items. In this process I always find that I have a pile of items that I no longer want and/or need. The big question is what do you do with them? Well, one obvious option would be to donate them to charity.

Of course you could take this donation one step further and host a donation drive through your work, school and/or church. With very little extra effort you could help colleagues, friends and families as well as many people you don't even know.

Hosting a donation drive is very simple and most organizations, such as Goodwill, are willing to help you in this effort. The steps are simple:
  1. Select the dates for your drive
  2. Set a goal for how much you would like to collect
  3. Contact your local charity to arrange pick up/drop off of donated items
  4. Create and distribute flyers/communications about the drive (Goodwill actually already have the flyers made for you, all you have to do is input your specific information.)
  5. At the beginning of the week, put out collection bins
  6. At the close of the week, collect donation bins
  7. Drop of donated items

It really is that simple. Another idea is to do it in conjunction with another event. That is what I am doing with my work. We have a large office-wide meeting in April and will collect donations at the meeting. Well, I am off. I'll let you know how much we collect. In the mean time, happy cleaning. :-)