The words, “Take on me…Take on me! Take me on… Take on me!” continuously played over and over, again, in my head. “Seriously?!” I thought. My sister has dubbed ‘Take On Me’ as the ultimate feel-good song. I can completely buy into this theory, though in that moment, transferring my thoughts to something that did not include drawing out vowel sounds or reminiscing of 1980’s pop was my first priority.
I was hanging out with my fam for the day, and as various songs proceeded to lodge themselves in our brains, my sister made the noteworthy comment (as she often does) that we continuously mull over songs because we don’t know all the words. As each phrase rolls through our mind, we work to clearly define the string of sounds we know must represent something of significance. What’s interesting, though, is that we may not necessarily feel like progress is being made (as we grow more and more annoyed at the current song replaying in our heads); though, it often is without our knowing.
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Recently, I began working with The Kellogg Foundation (full disclaimer – they are a client). Much of our work with the foundation focuses on overturning misperceptions about race and ultimately changing the misbehavior guided by those misperceptions.
Although debate continues, science has shown race is solely a cultural construct. Human genome studies have so far failed to turn up evidence that there’s such a thing as, for example, a Caucasian. Genetically, a black Kenyan man and a black Ugandan man are more different than a black Kenyan and a white Norwegian. Race has no basis in genetics. Yet, despite these findings, we cannot simply disentangle ourselves from the well-rooted paradigm of race we’ve all grown up with. If only it were that easy…
Race is a social construct, developed over centuries and passed from one generation to the next. Despite the hard science now available (though, it should have never been needed in the first place), racism continues to deeply influence individuals’ behavior and actions, and not always positively.
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Amidst the chatter and commotion, he really should have just let loose. Raised his voice. Bellowed. Something! But he didn’t. He sat there calmly, waited for the noise to die down, and then removed a $10 bill from his wallet.
We were in the middle of an internal strategic brainstorming session with my firm’s senior executives, the brightest minds in our company. Truly, I was honored to simply sit in on the occasion. Unfortunately, given that most of the attendees were peers, everyone had begun talking over one another. Though all had the best of intentions, with so many smart people in the room and no one person to call the shots, we were approaching a point of paralysis. That is, until he brought out the cash.
It was our chairman who laid down the bill in the center of the table and spoke, “The next person to interrupt owes $10. Anytime anyone interrupts, it’s $10, and at the end of the meeting, we’ll vote for what charity will get the money.” Continue Reading »
A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Turkey. My sister was a high school foreign exchange student, and when her year drew to a close, I flew overseas and experienced Turkish life up close and personal.
Before traveling, I learned what Turkish I could, including the word for ‘full.’ I was told I would be greatly encouraged to eat heartily, and though I welcomed this invitation, I also wanted to communicate, “This food is absolutely amazing; you’re a fabulous cook, though I am truly stuffed and cannot eat another bite. Thank you, though!” My means for doing this was to simply say I was ‘full’ – ‘doluyum.’
One evening after a hearty meal, I was invited to partake of fourth helpings, and being truly stuffed, I said what I thought to be ‘doluyum/full.’ (Let me tell you, I’m fairly certain they did not hear ‘doluyum.’) Eyes began to cross, eyebrows pinched closer together, and I got curious looks from everyone – evidently I was not saying this word correctly. I tried again and again, readjusting my intonation. We went back and forth; they would say a word in Turkish that may or may not have been the word I was attempting to speak, and I would rearticulate what I thought was some version of ‘doluyum.’ This went on for about 5 minutes until at one point our host family’s daughter shouted, “full!” Immediately, I shouted back,“Yes!” Eureka! Common ground achieved. She then said the word correctly in Turkish, and the table burst into laughter. Continue Reading »
Wiping the tears from my eyes, I could barely sit straight in my chair. Clutching my stomach out of both pure delight and immense pain, I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed so hard. My mom and I were sitting in a small theater near 44th and 9th in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen. We were part of an audience for Love, Loss and What I Wore, a Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron production. Though merely read from black high-backed chairs, without a scene or costume change, curtain call or blocking cue, the all-female cast of 5 was all that was needed to experience the full spectrum of human emotion, ranging from fear and isolation to immeasurable joy and full acceptance.
The women seamlessly weaved together stories of yellow vinyl purses, powder blue suits and black knee-high boots. With only their words to aid them, they took the invisible, and created people, personalities and depth. Through their gestures and fine use of detail, their excitement and intonation, they painted a world and invited us along for the ride. Continue Reading »
Elevator etiquette, once an art form of wrangling a sale, pitching the boss, or catching that hard-to-reach colleague for a few seconds, is now something of an anomaly. Ipods, often with the volume on ’10′ from the woman or gentleman standing beside us now provide a free soundtrack during our ride, and blackberries allow us to further multitask, while also providing a distraction from making eye contact with anyone sharing our car.
What was once known as the “elevator speech” – a staple in business communication, has now been halved, if not cut in thirds. We barely have time to chat anymore. It seems those who do generate conversation are the minority, and I’ve felt out of place quite a few times when a colleague and I would speak aloud.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on advances in elevator technology, and how these advances may be dismantling the concept of the ‘elevator speech’ all together. Companies can now offer elevators which allow employees to punch their needed floor on a keypad when first entering the building lobby. They are then directed to a specific elevator with others from their floor, significantly reducing travel time. An average elevator ride, once 89 seconds has now been reduced to 50 seconds. In addition, some companies offer elevators which can route employees by rank, or bosses can even override a passengers’ floor selection, forbidding that individual from entering a specific floor. Continue Reading »
Despite the threatening clouds overhead, the distant scoreboard along the far edge of the football field warned, “no umbrellas allowed!” Thankfully, officials did allow ponchos. With 800+ students graduating from college (my younger brother included), and many with at least 4+ family members in the stands, it was quite the bustle of activity. Assigned the task of retrieving our raingear, my dad returned with 4 ponchos just before the rain began to fall. In a span of about 10 seconds, everyone in the stadium was on their feet, and black and red trash bags flew everywhere. Grannies, aunts, parents, teens, 2 year olds – everyone was rushing to cover themselves and their loved ones. “Where’s the hole in this thing?!?” “Does this have arms?!?” and “I can’t see!” rang throughout the bleachers. What had once been a fairly calm scene of entire families in nicely-fitted suits, ties and groomed hair had now turned into a storm of flailing plastic.
This particular Saturday, which we had foreseen as a beautiful, sunny graduation morning, had turned into a very gray, wet and cold couple of hours, and as my mom, dad, sister and I sat along the hard metal benches, with the sky spitting on us on and off throughout the morning, we couldn’t help but look around and simply laugh. Mother Nature had defeated us. The hours of grooming and preparation before the ceremony; the special clothes picked out just for today; the books I had brought to read while waiting – they were all useless at this point in time. Continue Reading »
I had been running nonstop at the gym, burning off the leftover Easter candy I had eaten that day, when I couldn’t help but feel my feet get heavy. I went from 60 to 2 mph in about 5 seconds.
Watching TV during my run, a young woman on screen was completely annihilating Adele’s powerful song “Rolling in the Deep” (in a good way). Her performance was raw and real. And the woman, Vicci Martinez, a contestant on the competitive singing show, The Voice, left nothing wanting. She put herself on the line, and I couldn’t help but be in awe.
I love authenticity and anything raw and real. Combining that with the vulnerability and emotion portrayed through on-stage performance never ceases to amaze me. Watching Vicci perform, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “My gosh! To be up on that stage, performing like that – how amazing would that be?!?” I’m fascinated with theater, as it provides a platform for pure self-expression and demands attention when an individual speaks. My admiration for the theater developed at an early age as an outlet for a shy/quiet girl yearning to be both seen and heard.
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Known for her sharp wit and off-the-cuff brilliance, Tina Fey is a comedian respected well beyond the entertainment field. Her new book Bossypants has become an immediate best-seller, and with good reason. She recently sat down with NPR Fresh Air’s Terry Gross and hit upon a number of stories, including her early years as a comedian and the training she received. A number of remarks touched me, though one of the most striking quotes included a rehash of one of the cardinal rules of improv, as she noted, “… make statements. Don’t ask questions, and put the onus on the other person to come up with something. You come up with something, give it to them, and then they have to react with something.”
I was struck by the difference made by a mere intonation of the voice, a statement and a question. In the sphere of language, questions can also be extremely powerful, though, here , Tina refers to the power of assertiveness, and the importance of taking a stand. Daily, we are required to speak with confidence. Whether we need to sell a product, convince our colleagues to up the quality on a project, or voice our disagreement with how the direction the company is headed, we all have a voice and deserve to be the force others react to. Continue Reading »
Nuggets of advice and words of affirmation often come to us from a variety of sources.
For example, my dad offers an endless stream of counsel – one I’m grateful for, though did not always follow when I was younger. (And he will readily admit I’m still not all that attentive.)
Or, once, sitting in a supermarket café, a woman approached me and started chatting. She began retelling a twisted, complex dream, and though attentive, I honestly just thought to myself, “What on earth?!” At one point, she stopped cold and asked, “Are you following me?” to which I responded, “yes.” “Girl, you’re smart,” she said, “whatever your dreams are, aim higher.” Whether she was a woman a bit off her rocker, or was truly genuine, it’s one of those moments that has remained lodged in my memory and has helped push me. It’s the random and unexpected that often stick with us the most.
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