3/27/2009

Watch out! Your DNA will make you do stuff you had no idea you could do


This is a pretty much an armchair comment that I am inclined to make. The other day I received results of an assessment that was conducted at work of individuals who are in the management level. Similarly to others (some 70-80 people), a few weeks ago I was asked to provide names of two people (plus two back-up names) who may be acquainted with me and my work who would be asked questions about my performance, and so forth, and if there were areas that need to be addressed in making me a better manager/professional, and so forth.

One gets a few surprises in such an assessment. First, we were all told that this is not an evaluation. But then, we were not quite sure what this is actually going to mean when the data is gathered in.

Anyway, the assessment result – from a statistical point of view – did not yield a 100% score. My score was 8.83 on a scale of 10. Conclusion – I am not perfect, or at least the score was not 10 point. The points indicated areas of strengths and performance, but the comments of four people about their perception of my work, style and areas of needed growth made me aware of perceptions, which I seem to create as people meet me or look at me from the sidelines.

The stuff to deal with first – I learned that I have so many ideas and that I should sometime focus more on a few priorities, but I learned that I improved a lot in my relations with others. That’s an important area for me to focus. I also learned that with age and experience I got maturity … and another comment points to “growth needed” in building team and affirming staff. This sounds like someone has described a permanent “work of God” for me. I am taking up the challenge.

Now, my colleagues in a way that made me blush have exposed my DNA to me. Yes, it’s true. They see me also as an ideas person, and as being creative, as well as having a gift for defining quality. I would be stupid not to enjoy the moment!

There are things that we don’t notice ourselves, though honesty is looking straight into our own eyes in a morning bathroom mirror. We show empathy because that’s what our DNA prompts us to do. There are skills we improve on, but there are things that we say and do that do not need to be defended as they are natural to you or me. I make choices in life because I make them. Choices do not need to be defended, really. 

My armchair seems to be enjoying me, too. Yes, I am beginning to sense that maturity is an asset. But, if your armchair is stainless steel, search for a pillow. Your butt will appreciate it.

[Photo above - Stellenbosch, South Africa; below - Oxford, Maryland]


3/13/2009

Kissing through the glass does not excite me!



This blog entry is inspired by my recent visit to Sydney. So, there will be a few images to illustrate my encounters with the Land of Oz and moments this visit created. The Aussies have a way with their language and manage to be very earthy about it. It seems that if the can't find a better, and a more kosher way of expressing themselves in public, they just simply put an XXXX in it's place. One wonders ...

The Rocks, a made-for-tourists and not so Bohemian harbor attraction will attract you with many art galleries, billboards, and creative street art. Clever, simple, yet in-your-face sort of stuff. The city center provides a flashback of tradition and a mixture of cosmopolitan brand of Britishness with exotic ethnicities, all best expressed in the 19th century Strand passage, the Queen Victoria Building [the Waiting for Godot-like line of commuters, below], and casual tone. It seems that once the businesspeople leave the the steps of their offices the ties must come off! 
 
 
In a "Statement of Design Intent for the Financial Times Millennium Bridge Competition, 1996," the architects stated, that they "propose ... a bridge where sociality becomes the dominant practical purpose, a structure which allows and suggests the unhurried appreciation of the complexities of views and activities on both sides of of the river and on the river itself. ..." [Judith Dupre, Bridges, 1997]. I like this. This is saying that not only what happens on the bridge, but also underneath it provides opportunities to consider and appreciate. That's what I saw to explore of the Sydney Harbour Bridge by going below it. To walk on it was simply too expensive for the obvious experience and exhaustion that it would offer. 


People in in love. They are everywhere. I saw a couple in Brasov [see the previous blog entry] and Sydney offered a couple of couples immortalizing their union and joy digitally. These are cool moments and an opportunity to intrude someone's high moment for your own benefit! 




The Sydney Opera House needs no introduction, and it's sail boat-like design and aesthetics enchant as one of the architectural marvels of the world. The people of Sydney are lucky, and good on them! Among them are my friends, Pat and John Banks, and their lovely family. Sitting in the shadow of the opera's walls, or in the heat of a sunny Summer day made me appreciate how Australian this architectural marvel is, and how proud they all are of it!



While in Sydney, I reflected on something that is occupying my thinking these days: the reality of the virtual in communication. I've concluded that I am still waiting for my own tipping point. Let me explain.  A little note in the February 11 British daily Independent caught my attention. It was reported that coffee, chocolate and Facebook are the most common addictions in the UK. It was based on a poll of 3,000 people under 30 conducted for a livingTV addiction show Rehab. These current vices have replaced (they said ousted) favorites such as drugs, sex and cigarettes. 

Well, I am not ready to get addicted to ... Facebook. Not yet, anyway.

Isn't it enough to be part of the human race itself? Plenty to cope with in our real common predicament already. The proliferation of social networks and their impact on our lifestyle is staggering and defies imagination of what it will still evolve into. Yes, it's cool. Yes, it's useful. Yes, its popular. And yes, it very virtual. I am using bits of the virtual like everyone else [this blog, ha!]. But I am not quite ready to accept a notion that social networking provides basically virtual handshaking, as one successful and real businessman put it. I somehow worry about confusing the real touch, and the culture of feeling that we all need, with the authenticity that the virtual seems to offer. 

OK. Here are the figures - MySpace has a 125 million users worldwide. If it were a nation, it would be the 11th largest. Facebook jumped from 12 million users in 2006 to 175 million presently. What scared me was a statistic I heard that in no-time one user enlarged his circle of friends by one million. That's crazy. Frankly, I still prefer to have a real one non-digital friend to dialogue with me without the virtual authenticity. And besides, a garden offers nature's bounties. It will always beat the output of any virtual moment. [Dedicated to John Smith, a real friend from Southampton, who made me think when he challenged my passionate defense of virtual communication. Cheers, John!]

3/10/2009

It was snowing in the Dracula Wonderland



It takes three, four hours by road to reach the city of Brasov. A mid-February Friday afternoon trip from Bucharest is no joy when it's snowing. At least it was daylight. A trip to Brasov was offering an escape from a stressful reality of a lifestyle of modernity mingled with technology one is normally surrounded by. I was heading for a 14th century wonderland of Eastern Europe, Brasov, once one of the powerful medieval fortresses of Transylvania. 


Someone said that it would be snowing in Brasov, yet the city of Bucharest was moving out to enjoy a weekend of winter sports at Poiana Brasov mountain range, or a wedding-in-the-snow at the 15th century White Tower outside the fortress walls. Did they ever ...


For me it was the snow-covered rooftops of Brasov, the time-blackened city walls, towers and a town square, that's what attracted me. For one more day or so, I could reclaim a few vestiges of history and piece together a mosaic of styles - Romanic, Gothic, Byzantine, Renaissance or Baroque. Add to it expressions of religious influences - Roman Catholic, Orthodox, the Reformation age, Jewish ... This was different! Walking down the Nicolae Iorga Street and its tiny Jewish cemetery all seemed very black & white. The connection with such a diverse past was powerful, even when the snow was turning into slush.


Snowing or not, a visit to Bran and one of the castles associated with the cruel Vlad the Impaler, fictionally made famous as Count Dracula, had a different take. It looked spooky. If it wasn't for the colors of the market stalls offering local goat cheese and a myriad of gory souvenirs, the Teutonic castle walls looked foreboding. Only the Queen Marie's of Romania portraits which dotted the castle's interior rooms brightened the spooky atmosphere of a place where the enemies of the evil Vlad met their destiny. To make a livable residence, the queen installed an elevator in the fountain in the interior court. A comment from Carmen, our local guide, reconnected me at once with my profession: The queen knew the power of the image. She sold her profile to Camay cosmetics. Apparently, this wasn't some legend.  


Escaping from reality is an essential part of life's safety valves needed to cope with ... the reality. A Dracula tale can be useful at times, even when a local tries to persuade you that this is only a legend. Right, I said, and turned away. A disturbed dream is no dream at all.

The Dracula reality - no, not the blood and guts stuff. No. This is not appealing to me at all. The Dracula reality also happens in the freezing rain. But soon all slowly turning into snow. And it's the snow that covers everything. Or nearly everything.