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”.

 

Disappointment

Photo of climbing a rock wall
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

What was your last great disappointment?

I don’t mean the regular everyday disappointments, like finding that somebody took the last cup of coffee, or mounted the toilet paper the wrong direction. No. Something that was a really – big – deal.

Mine happened last week. I won’t bore you with the details. Like many of our greatest disappointments, what is a big deal to us often seems trivial to someone else.

Don’t you just hate it when, while you are wallowing in the injustice of it all, someone else hears your tale of woe and points out the insignificance of it in the big picture of life? Yeah. So, I won’t delve into the specifics of this particular issue.

However, I will share that it was a big deal. To me. At the time. Perhaps later we can share with each other the specifics of what last sent us into a pit of personal despair and laugh about how out of proportion our respective reactions were. For now, let us enjoy the pain of that moment in the same way we enjoy picking at a scab and watching with fascination the renewed oozing of blood from the wound.

How long did it take for you to get over your disappointment? How many hours, days, weeks did you spend literally or figuratively lying on the floor thrashing about, pounding the carpet with your fists? How many people had to hear your tale of woe as you dumped your raw feelings of anger and disbelief upon anyone who provided the slightest opening to do so?

Ah, good times.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss psychiatrist, is credited with defining the 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Known as the Kübler-Ross Model, these 5 stages define the progression of emotional states typical of someone who is terminally ill, and also those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

What is disappointment? Is it not a sense of great loss? The loss of an idea. The loss of a goal. The loss of a desired outcome. The heartbreak of not getting what we wanted. Deep disappointment hits us in ways similar to grief.

In my biggest times of disappointment, I have definitely experienced Anger and Depression. Denial usually presents itself as disbelief. Bargaining typically plays out as a desire to refute, debate, and argue the decision. Eventually, though, I reach a state of Acceptance. I’m not happy about it, but I accept it. (Well, except for that toilet paper thing. It really needs to come over the top.)

I hope that you are able to reach that point of acceptance in your disappointments.

What differentiates disappointment from grief is what comes after we have reached the state of acceptance.

Do we give up on the goal? Or, do we dig in with renewed determination, learning from the experience?

Sometimes what we fail to achieve is a once in a lifetime opportunity. There is no second chance. Most times that is not the case. Sure, if you are an Olympic athlete, you might have to wait another 4 years for your next shot at the gold medal. And maybe you can’t be the first to achieve whatever it was you were targeting. But, so what? You can still go for it.

Maybe that specific job for which you thought you were the perfect match won’t be posted again at that one company until the person who got it instead of you leaves. There are other jobs and other companies.

In my case, the goal I did not achieve can be applied for once per year. The next window of opportunity for submission is not until next January. My intention? To start now in planning and preparation to make my application undeniable.

There are those (I’ve been guilty of it myself) who would suggest that even if you don’t attain the desired goal, even if you don’t win the race, or get the trophy, you are a better person for having gone through the process.

Yeah, right.

I am not a “winning is everything” kind of person. But, when I was a kid playing little league baseball, our coach only took us out for ice cream when we won. And only those who hit a home run got a banana split. It was a great reward for practicing and playing hard. If we didn’t win, we moped and dragged our baseball mitts on our way home. Then we showed up with fresh determination at the next practice.

Allow yourself the time to grieve. Go through however many of the 5 steps you need. Once you’ve reached the “A” for acceptance in the Kübler-Ross Model, add another “A”. Action.

Reset your focus. Determine your next step. Chart a new course. Try again.

Do not allow the disappointment of a single misstep to be the end of the climb.

 

There Is No Joy

Photo of field of spring flowers
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

What brings you joy? What holds you back from experiencing it?

Most of us have participated in some form of an exercise designed to help us let go of a deeply held fear or concern. One method that many people have experienced is to write the fear or concern onto a piece of paper and then throw that paper into a fire, allowing the flames to symbolically consume whatever it was that was written on the paper.

Several weeks ago, during lent, I attended an appropriately somber church service on Maundy Thursday. After the service, I made my way through a series of stations for further reflection. At one of these stations, people were encouraged to write a concern onto a Post-It note and stick it to the cross, leaving it there as a way of releasing it and letting go of that concern.

As I sat there, pondering what to write, I glanced up and saw a note someone else had left. It said, “There is no joy.”

Those words struck me deeply.

I think a lot about joy. Joy is my purpose. Joy is at the heart of this blog. Joy drives nearly everything that I do.

At its core, the whole “Work Should Be Fun” concept is about joy.

I can understand not feeling happy. I can understand feeling sadness. I can understand many things. But, I can’t contemplate a life without joy.

Joy runs deep. Even in sadness, anger, or frustration, there can be joy.

To me, sadness is not the opposite of joy. Sad is the opposite of happy. Both are surface level sensations of the moment. They come and go.

Joy is eternal. It is deeply rooted. I find joy and hope to be more closely linked than joy and happiness.

The absence of hope is despair. So, for someone to say, “There is no joy,” says to me that they feel utter despair. They lack hope.

Without hope, we might as well sit down and give up. Hope keeps us going, even when things look bleak.

Joy and hope are inextricably connected.

Do you see the joy around you? It is everywhere. It is especially visible in this season of springtime. Take a moment to look around and see it. Then find a way to share it with others.

Take a moment to connect with another person. Walk down the hall, into the next cubicle, or talk with the person at the cash register. Share a few words. Smile. See the beauty that is all around. For just a moment, ignore the trash in the roadside ditch, look beyond the dirty dishes piling up in the sink, look away from the pile of unread emails in your inbox.

Experience joy.

 

What Do You Think?

Photo of Llama
Photo copyright ©2010 David J Crone. All rights reserved

“What do you think?”

Have you ever asked that question? Did you get the answer you were hoping to hear?

Here are a few scenarios:

  • You just served a meal that you spent a week researching and 4 hours preparing.
  • You finally opened up to a friend about a new direction for your life that you have been nervous to share with anyone.
  • You shared a new logo for your company that is fresh from the graphic designer.
  • After weeks of preparing in private, you delivered a final test run of your presentation to a friend or trusted colleague 2 days before the big event at which you are to deliver it.

When you ask that question, what are you really seeking? Most of us, when we ask that question, are seeking affirmation. We want to hear, “That was great!” Or, “I loved it!”

Sometimes we are looking for feedback on a specific aspect. Was there too much salt? Do you like this color in the logo? That photo on slide 23, was it too much?

What we often get is something we didn’t expect. Our friends and family, in an effort to be helpful, often take this opportunity to offer feedback on some aspect of what you shared that is outside of what we needed to hear at that moment. Or, they express something in general terms, where what we needed to hear were the specifics of what made them think that.

The result is that we feel crushed. Deflated. Hurt. Maybe even angry.

We think: How could they be so insensitive? Why do they always go for the jugular? See, this is why I don’t ask for feedback. All I get is negativity.

Soliciting and receiving feedback is a skill. It takes practice to develop. You might even call it an art.

If you are not getting the feedback you are looking for, it might not be the thing that you are soliciting feedback about that is the problem. It might simply be that you are asking for it in the wrong way.

Of course, sometimes what we just shared really did suck. But, I’m not talking about those times. I’m not too concerned about those instances because I trust that each of us, inside, knows when that is the case.

We’re all familiar with the dreaded question, “Do these pants make me look fat?” We can laugh about it, but that’s actually a great question. It is specific as to the feedback being sought. It is not a general question, such as, “What do you think of my outfit?” It is specific about one article: the pants. And it is not generic in the request, such as, “Do you like these pants?” No. It is clear that the one thing the person asking is concerned about is whether those pants, specifically, make them look fat.

My advice when soliciting feedback is to be specific in what you ask. Be clear to the person about what would be most helpful to you.

Instead of, “What do you think?”, ask something specific. Here are a few examples:

  • For that meal: How was the spice level? Too hot? Not hot enough?
  • For that new direction in your life: Knowing me as you do, what is the biggest aspect of this that surprises you?
  • The new logo: Does this make you want to know more, or run away?
  • The presentation: Did the images help you connect with what I was saying? Which ones worked best? Which ones did not?

If we do find ourselves asking the question, “What do you think?”, probe deeper into the response. If the answer is, “I hated it.”, ask, “Why?” Go for the specifics. You might have served a meal that contained a lot of cooked carrots. I can’t stand cooked carrots. Everything else about it was great. But, that one detail set me off. My response to the question of, “Did you like it?” would have likely been a simple, “No.” Don’t be offended. Dig deeper. Find out why.

The same goes if the response is, “I loved it!” Why? What about it, specifically, did you most enjoy?

Then, with that information in hand, you can decide what, if anything, you are going to do with it. Maybe you love cooked carrots and the group of people you are planning to serve that same meal to next week also love cooked carrots. Go with it. Just don’t invite me.

A key component of soliciting feedback is to remember that each person’s opinion is simply one data point. That one person might not even be a good representative of the intended audience for whatever it is we have solicited the feedback.

Ultimately, we need to trust our gut.

What do you think?

 

Planting Seeds

Photo of wildflowers
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved

Have you ever wondered whether Johnny Appleseed went back to see what grew from the seeds he planted?

We’ve all heard the stories of Johnny Appleseed. Folklore has it that he spread seeds everywhere he went. Some stories say he created meticulous nurseries. Others suggest he strewed seeds randomly as he traveled along.

Seed planting is a powerful metaphor for leadership. Leaders are planting seeds constantly, whether they are aware of it or not. Sometimes the seeds are carefully planted with a specific outcome in mind. Sometimes it’s more like a person carrying a heavy burlap sack of seeds on their shoulder; the bag has a small hole in one corner; seeds are falling randomly as the person travels along their way.

In my career as a leader, there have been many times when I set out to plant seeds on purpose, to create a meticulous nursery. I had specific goals in mind for what I wanted to spring forth from the seeds I planted.

What I have found over the years is that the seeds that randomly fell from the sack were the ones that had the most impact.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” This is especially true when it comes to leadership.

No matter what we say or how fancy the animated graphics are on that PowerPoint presentation we use at our all-staff gathering, what we DO, how we BEHAVE, on a regular basis is what people will remember. Those are the seeds that will take root and grow.

Every once in a while, I hear from someone with whom I previously worked. They’ll say something to me that starts with, “You always said…”, or “You once told me…” and my initial reaction is, “I did?”

I enjoy these encounters, especially when what they took away was something that has been beneficial to them and/or others. Human nature being what it is, I tend to hear more of the positive stories than negative.

I recently received this text from a friend with whom I used to work:

I received the 1st quarter leadership award last week from our CEO. My team nominated me. Seems I’m making a difference in folks’ lives and careers. Sharing this not to boast but to let you know what a great mentor you are. Thank you.

I’d like to take credit for planting those particular seeds on purpose. But, I can’t, really. All I can do is turn around, realize that the sack I am carrying has a hole in it, and notice that some of what is falling has taken root to become something beautiful.

To be sure, there are things that have fallen out of my sack that did not grow into such a heartwarming result. I am sure there are people who could tell you about the weeds they have had to pull. For now, I will enjoy the good plants.

As a leader, you are always planting seeds. What’s falling out of your sack?

 

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.)

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.”

 

Legacy

Photo of Bob Isaacson.
Photo copyright ©2015 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

What is the legacy you hope to leave behind?

I have previously written about heroes and role models. One of mine recently passed away. Bob Isaacson. He was 80 years old.

Like many of my friends, I knew Bob from work. Bob was a ventriloquist. He was a staple at the Vent Haven ConVENTion, an annual gathering of ventriloquists from around the world. He was beloved by everyone who knew him.

One of Bob’s joys every summer was to be the Emcee for the Junior Open Mic event at the convention. Occasionally, he would perform as part of his time on stage. But, primarily, he saw his role as supporter of the latest generation of young people learning the art and craft that he loved. He took his role seriously. One aspect he was known to work especially hard at was to pronounce each person’s name correctly as he introduced them. Bob saw this as an important part of showing respect.

Everyone who has met Bob has their own story of why he is so special to them. To me, Bob embodied the term, “statesman”.

Merriam-Webster defines statesman as: a wise, skillful, and respected political leader. If you remove the word, “political” from that definition, you have a perfect description of Bob: wise, skillful, and deeply respected.

Bob was always eager to sit and talk with anyone at any skill level about the art and craft of ventriloquism. He would tell stories from his experience. Then, what made him unique, he would turn the conversation around to you, offering words of encouragement and gentle guidance. Bob had a knack for treating you as the most important thing in the world to him at that moment.

The other word that comes to mind when I think of Bob is, “gentleman”. While I have no knowledge of whether Bob comes from noble birth, he always conducted himself with the spirit of a true gentleman. Again, from Merriam-Webster, “A man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior.” He was truly a gentle man.

Much of Bob’s influence was through his skills on stage. He brought laughter to many. But, as strong as that was, his impact off stage was even greater than on. Bob showed me what it looks like to be a kind, loving human being.

That is a legacy worth leaving.

 

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.