Entries in significance (2)

Talent-less Alien

Posted on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 06:35AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston in , , , , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Imagine you were born with great musical talent. Imagine, from an early age, you could sing beautifully. Imagine easily learning to play instruments. Imagine you were born with great athletic ability, first in running and jumping, then in sports of all kinds. Imagine you were academically gifted. Imagine you learned your letters, colors, numbers and shapes before every other little kid. Imagine that reading and math, then the sciences and humanities, just came easily to you. Imagine you had a talent for art. You could draw and paint and take great photographs and these skills grew and grew. Imagine, at your first middle school dance, you discovered you were a naturally good dancer. Imagine that you were innately comfortable, outgoing and articulate, in social situations. Imagine kids your age, and even older kids and adults, were drawn to you. Imagine you always had a lot of friends and fans.

Now imagine you were transported from earth, to some strange planet, but none of your abilities got transported with you. Kind of like Superman in reverse. You were left with no musical, athletic, academic, or artistic talent. And your ability to relate to other people was like, well, an alien on a strange planet.

This is how I started life, like a talent-less alien.  

I cannot carry a tune or hear pitch or tone (whatever those are. I have no idea). At practice for my elementary school promotion ceremony, the kids standing around me told me to just mouth the words. 

I ranged from below average and really bad at sports. I was relatively strong and coordinated, but the other little athletes seemed to know something I didn’t. It was like they were told some secret about sports that I missed.

I had some combination of learning differences and a lot of apathy for education. As General George Marshall put it, “I wasn’t a bad student. I wasn’t a student, at all.” I learned close to nothing in school.

I can’t draw or paint or take good photos, though I have tried. I had a decent 35mm DLSR camera and took pictures of my kids’ activities, until I saw another parent’s photographs and instantly realized hers made mine unnecessary.

I have no rhythm or dance moves. If I concentrate really hard, I kind of “feel the beat,” for about 15 seconds, then, the connection is broken and I look like a baby giraffe. 

I was in my late thirties before I began to understand human interaction. Social cues, sarcasm and implied meanings were lost on me. Sustained eye contact was so distracting that I couldn’t both look someone in the eye and talk. And my lack of eye contact was so distracting to other people that they gave up trying to talk to me.   

I was terrified of public speaking. In 1995, I was elected to a position (I have no idea why) in a trade organization, in which I had to welcome guest and introduce speakers. I was so terrified that I wrote on a piece of paper, “Good Afternoon. Welcome.” Because I was afraid I would forget, even that. If I had to hold a piece of paper or a microphone, it would shake visibly in my hand.

Significance Ideation is the way one person, dropped into this strange life, with none of the tools others use to survive and thrive, survived and eventually thrived, but it is a lot more than that. It is how you can shore up your weaknesses and explosively expand your strengths, even if you have never before understood what your strengths are.

If you are young, maybe Significance Ideation can shortcut the process for you. If you are older, maybe this is finally the key you’ve been missing. This is not a magic cure for everything that ails you. It is a set of exercises that work, over time. The good news is that noticeable change happens quickly and incremental change continues indefinitely. 

Behind the Scenes Tour

Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at 07:30AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston in , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Blue industrial tile floors, with drains every few feet, painted cinder block walls, exposed HVAC ducts and plumbing, overhead. Through open doors, we could see normal-looking offices, with normal-looking (though I’m sure very smart) people and normal-looking office furniture. My first impression was that it looked really average. It was clean, but unremarkable. In one area, off to the side, were several Christmas trees, just sitting on the floor.  

In January, my family and I did the Beluga Whale Experience at The Georgia Aquarium. As a bonus, we got a behind-the-scenes tour. The hidden corridors of the Aquarium were fine, but, in contrast to the beautifully-designed and carefully-managed look of the public area, strikingly ordinary.

After college, I lived in a few different apartments, with roommates. But, at some point, I got tired of having roommates and tired of living 25 miles from work, so I rented a one-bedroom apartment, near work, and lived alone. Living alone had its advantages. I’m an introvert. Living alone made it easy to recharge, but that’s another story.

During this time, I met my future wife. We lived in different cities, so I didn’t see her every day, usually just on weekends. When she was coming to visit, I would clean the apartment. It would be spotless. And not just clean, but squared away - a place for everything and everything in its place. I would even line the coke cans and beer bottles up, in the frig, in soldier-straight rows, with all the labels facing out. My wife later told me it felt like a hotel.

There was a storage closet in that apartment. What my future bride did not know was that that closet was an over-filled, disorganized mess. It was awful. In order to make a good impression, I crammed all my disorder behind the scenes. I was surprised to see the Christmas trees in the corridor at the Aquarium, but that was nothing compared to my closet.

The image you present to the world is your personal brand. It is right to cultivate your personal brand, but also cultivate integrity. The brand we show the world should reconcile with our closets. This is a process. Integrity must be built, brick by brick. The bricks are our values. The most important step is for each of us to know what he or she values, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. We can work toward integrity when we are consciously aware of each of our values. Like the old Rubik’s Cube, it takes a bunch of moves to get everything to match up. 

Perfection is not the goal. It cannot be, because it’s unachievable. And it should not be, because being flawless would be un-relatable. That’s where humility fits. In retrospect, I should have said, “Honey, I want everything to be perfect for you, but have a look in this closet, also.”

Ironically, the less alignment there is between my hidden corridors and my personal brand, the less believable and effective my brand is. We each express values in the world, whether we realize it or not. The only way to know how we are impacting the world is to identify, understand and prioritize our values.

Obviously, there are things you don’t show the world. Transparency stops where discretion begins, but in the expression of values, being aligned, bottom to top, is what works.

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” William Shakespeare