It’s pronounced “JIF”

Dancing Baby GIF
Animation released to public domain by its creators.

If someone told you their name was Jerry, would you insist on calling them Gary?

Probably not. And yet, that is exactly the scenario with the pronunciation of “GIF”. It is properly pronounced, “JIF”.

Before you click away, understand that this post is about a much deeper issue than the silly debate over a hard vs. soft G. Stick with me a moment. It will make sense in a few paragraphs.

But, first, back to GIF…

Knowing that GIF stands for “Graphics Interchange Format”, it is logical to presume that it is pronounced with a hard G sound. However, if you ask the inventor, Steve Wilhite, he will tell you in no uncertain terms that it is to be pronounced with the soft G.

That should be the end of the story. And yet, even knowing this, people still insist that it is pronounced with the hard G.

What is something about which you formed an opinion, based on your own first experience, only to find out later that you were wrong? Was it difficult for you to accept it?

A couple decades ago, long before the movies, my family read the Harry Potter books for the first time. My wife read them out loud to our kids. If you are familiar with these stories, then you know that one of the main characters is Hermione Granger. We had never heard that name before. We read it as, “Her Me Oh Nee”. We thought that was how it was pronounced. With every reading of the name out loud, we became more convinced that was the correct way to say it. When we saw the first movie in theaters, we were shocked to find that it was pronounced, “Her My Oh Nee”.

To us, this odd pronunciation was simply wrong. How could they do that? Don’t they know the right way to say it?

Can you relate? Have you had that experience?

What both of these examples have in common is PRECONCEPTION. We form an opinion that seems logical; one that can even be defended as being a reasonable conclusion to have drawn based on the evidence available at the time.

From Dictionary.com:

preconception

noun
1. a conception or opinion formed beforehand.
2. bias.

Which of you believes that the Earth is the center of the galaxy, that all of the other planets and stars rotate around the earth? Which of you believes that the earth is flat?

We laugh at these notions now, even scoff at those who would have believed such a preposterous thing. But, had it not been for the evidence presented by scientists who came before us, we could be among those who had it wrong.

First impressions, first beliefs, preconceptions, are extremely difficult to overcome. We might have to admit that we were wrong. Gasp!

What if, instead, we viewed it as being unaware? Does that soften the blow? We did not have all of the facts available at the time we formed our opinion. We were not wrong. We simply didn’t know any better.

The real problem comes when we hold to these preconceived beliefs even after being presented with information to the contrary.

We can have fun debating how “GIF” should be pronounced. But, we cannot debate how its creator intends for it to be pronounced. From a New York Times blog posting:

“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

What preconceived ideas do you cling to, even in the face of evidence to the contrary?

Actively question beliefs you hold to be true. Be willing to adapt when new evidence is presented.

Be kind to yourself. Chances are you weren’t wrong. You just didn’t know any better. However, once you’ve become educated, accept the truth and move forward.

And remember, it’s pronounced, “JIF”.

 

Memories

Photo of bunnies in garden
Photo copyright ©2004 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

How long does it take for you to forget what drove you crazy?

We have all had relationships that ended, sometimes badly, and yet we find ourselves strangely drawn back to that same relationship that caused us so much pain. Why is that?

Memory is a fickle thing.

A friend of mine used to say that she judged the seriousness of any given situation by how long it would take before she could find the humor in it. Thus was born our favorite saying when things are not going according to our plans, “How long until this is funny?”

Recently, I performed at a local outdoor festival. Being local, many people I know came out to see the show. Several were coworkers at one of the places I used to work when I had a day job.

Enough time has gone by since leaving that particular employer that most of my memories are good ones. I especially miss the people I used to work with on a daily basis. For me, it is always the people that I miss the most.

When my wife catches me speaking with fondness about this particular former employer, she is quick to point out that at the time I left, I was overflowing with frustration, constantly complaining about the environment, and generally difficult to live with as a result. She’s right, of course. (She usually is.)

It was great to catch up with my former coworkers at this recent event. In talking with them, it was fun to remember the people I used to work with and the parts of the job that made it a decent place to work. However, I was also reminded of the things that used to drive me crazy about the environment. Apparently, it hasn’t changed much.

In case any of you reading this know which organization I am talking about, it is important to understand that I bear no ill will to the organization itself. They do great work in the community and I am a happy customer of the organization. But, just because you like to shop at Walmart, it doesn’t mean you would be happy working there. Meanwhile, some people love working there. It fits their style. Some people simply tolerate it. So it is with this former employer of mine. As I’ve said throughout this blog, it is all about fit.

How do you remember your former employers? Which ones drove you crazy at the time, but now you look back on with fondness, perhaps even wishing you could go back?

What if we could do that in the moment?

What if we could approach our current job as if we were looking back upon it in the future? Which parts would we choose to remember?

What if we could overlook the parts that annoy us now, the aspects that we will wipe from our memory over time, and focus on the good parts, the parts that in the future we will look back on with fondness?

How would that change the way we approach our work each day?

Enjoy the good parts. Tolerate the not so good parts. And, as always,  “Thank you for shopping at Walmart.”

 

Make Someone Mad Today

Photo of choices at a bakery
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved

When is the last time a choice you made resulted in making someone else mad? Downright, name calling, temper tantrum throwing, angry.

Did you enjoy it?

Probably not. If you did, I’d be concerned.

Most of us do not enjoy making other people angry. More accurately, most of us do not enjoy it when other people are mad at us.

Right there, the last word in that previous paragraph, is the issue. “Us.” It’s all about us. We dislike making other people upset because of how it reflects on us. We want other people to like us. We want to be loved.

We seek approval, affirmation. If someone is mad at me, I must have done something wrong. Right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

When is the last time you were angry? Blood boiling, head throbbing, ready to punch something, angry? What was it about?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that, ultimately, it involved you not getting your own way on some issue.

In those instances, I am also going to guess that once the dust settled, after some time had passed, once you’d had the opportunity to look at things from a broader perspective, you were able to see that maybe the issue, decision, statement, whatever it was that set you off, was the “right” thing. You still might not be happy about it, but you could see it was the best choice at the moment. Even if you were not able to say, “I was wrong,” you were likely able to say, “You were right.”

Leaders are often put into a position of making decisions that are unpopular. Sometimes these decisions make people downright angry.

Many times, the level of anger that results from an unpopular decision comes down to how the decision was made and/or is communicated. That is a deeper topic for another time. For now, let’s focus on the willingness to make a decision regardless of its popularity.

One of the guiding principles taught to me for making difficult choices as a leader is the 5 year rule. When we look back on this decision 5 years from now, will we still see this as the right choice?

The exact amount of time we project into the future isn’t all that important. Although, it should be long enough that you are beyond hurt feelings of individuals who are going to be impacted by the choice.

If we allow an unwillingness to upset people to stymie our ability to make a decision, we have failed as leaders. In the words of Neil Peart in the Rush song, “Freewill”,  “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

Do take the impact decisions will have on people seriously. Weigh the costs and benefits. Understand the full impact of the decision. Then make the choice. Even if it makes someone mad.

As a final thought, I leave you with this old groaner of a joke:

Johnny: Why are you so sad?
Billy: We shot our dog.
Johnny: Was he mad?
Billy: Well he sure wasn’t happy about it!

Watch, Do, Teach

Stylized photo of water
Photo copyright ©2011 David J Crone. All rights reserved

What phrases stick in your mind?

Here’s one I heard when I worked at OhioHealth: Watch one, Do one, Teach one.

The person who taught me this phrase explained that this philosophy was engrained in her as a nurse. To fully learn a new procedure, you watch it being done, you do it yourself, and then you teach it to someone else.

That last step is critical. It is what separates common practitioners of any craft from the masters. It is where most of us stop short.

Think about it. If you are going to teach something, there is a level of expectation that you know the material. It forces us to raise our game. We must have the confidence in our skills if we are to teach others.

I believe that is why so few of us teach; we lack the confidence in our own skills or knowledge. That is a shame. There are many people with much to give, who hide behind a cloak of fear.

A clear benefit to teaching others is that we learn more ourselves. One of  my friends in college taught classes at another school. He was not the smartest person in our own classrooms. But, he was a good teacher. His own struggles as a student helped him as a teacher because he could relate to his students’ challenges. He shared with me how much he was learning by teaching. He also shared his joy in receiving high marks from his students.

You don’t have to be a master of the material to teach. Some of my most memorable teachers in school were those who, rather than spewing forth their vast knowledge from on high, invited us to join them in their own journey of exploration on the subject. Those shared explorations were far more interesting than sitting through boring lectures.

Now it’s your turn.

Watch one. Do one. Teach one.

(Side note: I take this concept of teaching seriously. I now offer one-on-one coaching for speakers and entertainers who want to better connect with their audiences. If you want your time in front of others to be more powerful, give me a call.)

Involved Detachment

Photo of blue sky through trees.
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

In one of the gyms I used to go to, there was a sign prominently displayed in the weight room that read, “Go heavy or go home.”

In another context, I frequently heard the saying, “Play to win or don’t bother playing.”

Each of these sayings has their place. If you are a naturally competitive person, then both of these probably strike you as being obvious. You likely feel wholehearted agreement.

One problem with these concepts is that in the wrong circumstances, they can induce substantial unnecessary amounts of stress.

Another issue is they might cause you to give up early. Maybe you look ahead toward the finish line, realize there is no way for you to win this particular race, and therefore stop trying. Give up on this one, move on to the next race, maybe you’ll have better luck there.

These sayings do not fully incorporate the level of influence factors beyond our effort have on the outcome. I’m not talking about making excuses when things don’t go our way. I am talking about accepting the reality that there’s often more involved in the decisions others make than simply the amount of effort that we put into trying to sway them one way or another.

I recently spoke to a group of recruiters for an organization. Their key metric is the number of people they are able to get to sign on the dotted line. The majority of their training is based on classic sales methodology, with “getting to the close” being a key component.

The problem is that they were becoming overly obsessed with that metric of closing the deal. Each person they were recruiting was seen as critical to their success in their job as recruiter. When they were unable to seal the deal with a particular individual, they viewed it as failure. They took it personally. It was creating an enormous amount of stress on the individuals.

I can relate.

I have this same experience in my own business. I tend to view each prospective client as critical to the success of my business. When a prospective client tells me, “we’ve decided to go a different direction” (a frequently used phrase instead of simply saying, “no”) it is easy to take this personally. Being a one-person service-oriented business, the product I am selling is, essentially, myself. As a result, failure to close the sale takes on a high degree of personal rejection.

Do you enjoy rejection? I sure don’t.

The attitude shift that has helped me the most, and that I shared with this group of recruiters, is the concept of Involved Detachment.

What does that mean?

It means going heavy and playing to win… while detaching yourself from the outcome.

It means giving it your absolute best shot, doing all you can to convey your value proposition. And then once you’ve done that, let it go. You’ve done your part, now it is up to them.

This is still very much a work in progress for me. There are good days, and there are not so good days.

It is easy to view an opportunity as being impossible to win. As the level of the events at which I work has elevated, so has the level of the people I am being compared against for the time slot. While it is pretty cool to be considered alongside some of these people, it can also be intimidating.  I view many of them with such high esteem that it seems pointless to even bother submitting my proposal.

But, just as there are factors beyond my influence for which another person might be chosen, there are also factors beyond my control which cause a client to select me over the others being considered.

Got that? It is not my job to tell them “no”. There is a reason that they chose to contact me in the first place, to include me in their search.

My job is simply to understand as much as possible about the client’s goals, put forth what I have to offer as clearly as possible, do it well, and then let it go.

Where can you apply this concept in your life and work? In what areas are you being overly concerned with the outcome? Are you quitting before you even start?

Practice involved detachment.

Do your part. Do it well. Then let it go.

 

Mirror Mirror

Photo of dancers in studio
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

As a ventriloquist, I regularly practice in front of a mirror. My practice studio has a large one permanently mounted on the wall.

It is very helpful as I work on the character animation to be able to see how it looks by watching myself in the mirror. Each character needs to act and react, just like in a traditional play.

Sometimes, especially as I am developing a new bit, I will spend hours working on nuanced movement for delivery of a single line of dialog, looking for the precise motion to get the biggest reaction. If I have a joke that I know in my gut is a good joke, but it is not getting the laughter that I think it should, I go back to the mirror and work on the delivery, adjusting timing, phrasing, and gestures.

Dancers often practice in front of a mirror. The dance studio where my kids studied has a wall full of floor-to-ceiling mirrors. It was an essential tool for them to learn movement.

That wall of mirrors in the dance studio also has a curtain that can be drawn across the entire expanse. So does the mirror in my practice studio.

Why? Because at a certain point in the rehearsal process you need to shift from thinking of what is being reflected back on yourself and focus instead on what you are projecting to the audience.

You need to draw the curtain, turn around, and perform for the audience.

Many performers miss this critical transition. Mea culpa. Like many entertainers, I started performing as a way to get attention, to seek approval. The applause was the goal. It signified to me that I was doing something right, that I was valued.

I can tell you the exact moment when it dawned on me that I was spending way too much time looking in the mirror, seeking applause as a way of improving the reflection.

It was a game changer for me in my entertainment career.

More importantly, it was a game changer for the audiences I serve. Now when I walk onto the stage, my focus is entirely on them and what they are receiving rather than on what they are reflecting back.

This same concept applies to leaders. Some leaders are focused on the mirror. They stand looking into the mirror, with their team behind them. They see the team’s purpose as one of reflecting positively on the leader.

Perhaps you’ve worked for a leader like this. Perhaps you are one. It’s annoying.

A mirror can be a useful tool. It helps us develop our technique. The key is to realize that the mirror is not our target audience. We are not here to perform for ourselves. Entertainers need to perform for an audience. Leaders need to lead a team.

Use the mirror. Practice in front of it. Hone your technique. But, know when it is time to draw the curtain, turn around, and focus on the audience.

 

Exude Confidence

Justin Timberlake during Superbowl LII halftimeWhat image do you convey when you walk into a room? If you were able to watch yourself enter a meeting where you are in charge, what would you see?

I confess, I am a Justin Timberlake fan. But, even if you do not have the kind of JT bromance that I do, there is something to learn from his performance during halftime at this year’s Superbowl.

As always, there were critics who called the show “lame”, “mediocre”, and even “boring”. These critics were not watching JT’s face.

I challenge you to watch it again. This time watch through a different lens. Maybe even turn the sound off. Focus on his face. Here’s a direct link: https://youtu.be/2z3EUY1aXdY

Do you see it? Unbridled confidence, without a trace of arrogance.

When I watch JT perform, whether it is this halftime show, or the Netflix special of a previous concert, or perhaps someday actually attending a concert in person, what I most admire and feel drawn to is that absolute confidence that he belongs on that stage.

Coupled with that confidence is an air of welcoming you, the viewer, to come along for the ride. There is a sense of, “Hey, let’s have some fun together.”

Some performers display confidence, but there is also an air of arrogance about it. It’s more exclusionary. It’s more like, “I deserve to be here. I’m better than you. Watch me. Aren’t I great?”

This same attitude plays out in places beyond the stage. Think about how your boss, or others up the executive chain, walk into a meeting room. Do they treat you like a stereotypical Catholic School teacher, telling you to sit down and shut up? Or are they like JT – clearly in charge of the situation, but inviting you to be an active participant?

How do YOU behave in this situation? When you are the one in charge, do you lord it over people? Or do you maintain order while inviting participation?

Exude confidence. But, in the words of Han Solo, “That’s great kid. Don’t get cocky.”

 

Time out

Photo of flags on a flagpole
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

When is the last time you called a Time Out?

Like much of America, I’ve been watching a lot of football the past few days. It’s college bowl season. The concept of calling a time out struck me as something that has meaning far beyond football.

In football, the purpose of calling a time out is to give the team a chance to pause, reconsider their current strategy, revise it as needed, and sometimes just to give the players an opportunity to breath before the next play.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is often one in which I call a time out – from work. It is a time to pause, reflect, and spend time with my family. Sometimes it is simply an opportunity to breath before launching into whatever is coming next.

When do you call a time out? Is your play clock running dangerously close to zero? Could you benefit from taking a moment to reconsider your current direction?

Give yourself a break. Call a time out. Then get yourself back into the game.

 

Shake It Off

Photo of polar bear shaking off water
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved

How long do you hold a grudge?

I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. This past weekend I watched them play against the New England Patriots. Coming into the game, the Steelers had already clinched the division title. They’ll be in the playoffs. This game was about locking in home field advantage. A meaningful game, but not all that critical in the grand scheme of things.

In the final minute of play, it looked like the Steelers had regained the lead with a touchdown pass. However, after a lengthy review by the replay officials, they ruled it an incomplete pass according to a relatively new rule specific to a pass that leads to a touchdown. The game ended with a Patriots victory.

There has been much uproar among my fellow Steelers fans. Many are still talking about it, stuck in what could (should?) have been.

Meanwhile, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and the rest of the team are heads down, preparing for the next game. They are not wallowing in the defeat. They are not endlessly whining on social media about how the new rule is stupid, or that it was a bad call by the officials. They are moving on.

I have seen this repeatedly while watching my favorite team play. There is a questionable call on the field, or in replay review. It doesn’t go the way I’d like for my team. I get all upset, jump up and down, scream at the TV. I am stuck on that previous play. And there is coach Tomlin, calmly standing on the sidelines, focused on the next play and the next.

How often do we get stuck when one thing does not go as we think it should? That sales proposal we put so much effort into is rejected. Someone cuts us off in traffic. We go for a cup of coffee only to find that somebody else took the last cup and didn’t make a fresh pot. We don’t get the raise or promotion we thought we deserved.

We can’t all have the calm demeanor of Mike Tomlin. We get wound up in the unfavorable ruling on the field, or in the office. We rant. We make a fuss. And while we do, other people around us are moving on, getting ahead.

Not every play is going to succeed. Not every ruling is going to go our way. Not every game is going to end in a victory.

How do you react when things don’t go your way?

How long does it take you to get your head back into the game?

Taylor Swift captured this concept in her hit song, “Shake It Off“. Whether you like her music or not, these lyrics are a great reminder to move on. Let others get stuck complaining. It is better to keep moving forward.

But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music in my mind
Saying it’s gonna be alright

Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

Focus forward. Stay on target. Shake it off.

Truth matters

Photo of soaring bird.
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

How important is your integrity?

For me, it is a big deal. Integrity is everything.

Integrity is earned. It comes from repeatedly doing what you say you are going to do. It comes from telling the truth. It creates trust.

Truth, integrity, and trust go hand in hand.

These qualities have been ingrained in me since childhood. The most severe punishments I received as a kid were the result of veering away from these qualities. Telling a fib was simply not tolerated. Punishment for lying about something was far worse than for whatever it was you were lying about.

As a result, if you ask me a question, I feel compelled to give you a truthful answer. Being a magician, this has often caused me a fair amount of stress. Refusing to answer, “How did you do that?” is anathema to lying. Please don’t ask me, “Does this outfit make me look fat?” unless you want an honest answer.

A promise is a promise. If I say I will do something, I won’t stop until I have done it. Or, at least given it my best effort before admitting defeat. To do anything else is the same as lying.

My wimpy way out of this predicament has been to say, “I’ll try.” The Star Wars fans among you will immediately quote Yoda, “Do. Or, do not. There is no try.”

I feel for Luke in that scene. Avoidance of the word “try” is an ongoing challenge for me. If I say I will, then I must. “Try” provides the sense of having a bit of wiggle room.

Do you have friends who are compulsive liars? Liars can be annoying. Liars can also be great fun to hang around.

One of my lunch table companions in high school was well known for his stories. He could take the simplest occurrence from a weekend family trip and spin it into a complex, highly entertaining yarn. There was always the smallest seed of truth in the stories, which made it all that much more fun.

This particular prevaricator would never admit to stretching the truth. He would insist that it was all true. We were highly entertained by these wild stories and urged him on.

The stories were harmless. However, the side effect of this consistent pattern of exaggerating was that we never fully believed anything this storyteller said. He lost our trust.

(Nonetheless, I count him among a small group of dear friends from high school.)

The problem with even a single lie is that it instills doubt. How do you believe anything this person says once they have demonstrated a capacity for telling lies?

At one of my previous places of employment, a guy was fired after making a mistake that caused a major outage in our systems. He wasn’t fired for making the mistake. He was fired for lying about what he did. Mistakes we could learn from and move forward. Being a person we could no longer believe was not acceptable. Lying was a “pack your boxes, there’s the door” violation.

A reputation of integrity and trust takes a long time to establish, and only a moment to destroy.

It seems that, more and more, we are living in a world of outright lies and deception. The problem with this preponderance of lies is that everything is met with skepticism. A healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing. But, not when it becomes overwhelming.

Here in the US, our legal system is founded on a “presumption of innocence.” It used to be this way with truth. I would venture to say that most of us lived much of our lives with a “presumption of truth.” Now, it seems, we are shifting to a world where we assume we are being lied to, and truth must be proven.

This affects all of us.

We can turn this around.

Start in your own small circle. Let’s get back to speaking the truth. Not just try, do.

Truth matters.