Bringing back the human element.

I have come across multiple posts recently on Facebook and in actual media outlets (Check out Adam Grant‘s take) decrying how the social media context has caused us to lose sight of what friendship. Too often in our over-saturated, noisy world we allow an electronically mediated message to get in the way of the actual human element of relationship – and I admit I am a huge offender.

I often refer to people as friends even when I admittedly haven’t talked to them for years, or rarely ever. I have lived in 4 different states in the last 11 years, including 9 different cities, and I am really bad about working on true unfiltered continued relationships (except with my wife and daughter). I am the guy who would rather email, text, message, or post something to you than pick up the phone and call you – if we are at a distance (I will say I would much rather grab coffee with you than those other things, but I think you get the point). To make matters worse, I for most of my adult life have worked in small organizations where my actual human interactions with people on a daily basis are quite limited. Yet at my core, I am a developer, coach, teammate, and community member. In the words immortalized in the show Lost in Space, “this does not compute.”

With an ever-shrinking world, ever-increasing access to information, and the constant buzz that surrounds the everyday life of individuals from infancy to geriatrics, how do we put the human element back into relationships? I don’t believe that it is anything but a result of our lack of human interaction that vitriol is expelled on the comment sections of so many articles, that we are becoming more and more divided everyday, and that injustice seems to be on an uptick.

So how do we create person-to-person, person-to-group, and person-to-community connection back to our society? I wish I had an easy answer, but I don’t. My only thought is that we have to start by being intentional and aware of this reality. We all have a need for belonging, from political parties to sports teams, gangs to religious organizations, clubs to conferences, we need others and we need to be connected. In 2015, I am would like to embark on a journey of reconnecting to the human element of our society – through shared community, phone calls, coffee talks, and video chats.

Will you join me in seeking to bring back the human element to our lives again?

If only I had more time

I find myself thinking that so often. Right now I serve as the Executive Director of SynerVision Leadership Foundation, I teach adjunct at Spring Hill College, and I am working with an amazing group of community leaders to bring innovation and entrepreneurship structure to my new hometown of Mobile, AL (not to mention other volunteer work that I do).IMG_20140508_073843

(Places like this do help the process. Taking time to reflect and enjoy your surroundings are helpful)

Still, it bothers me when I think about all of the other projects (including this website) that I just can’t seem to spend my emotional and mental capital in more places. The truth is, we all want to do more. The organization you work for wants to, the school that you attend desires to, and you wish you could – but the reality is, we all have to be strategic about what we choose to do, otherwise we will be spinning our wheels.

If you are like me, this is a really hard lesson, I mean REALLY! So rather than just whine about the problem, sit down and write out your list. Choose five things that you feel that you can really invest yourself in. No more than five. No cheating…and if you can’t come up with five – open your eyes to all the possibilities that are out there. Why five, because that it just makes sense – trust me, or don’t (I mean you only have five fingers on a hand…it was just meant to be – and no, don’t tell me you have two hands…I know that but really when you start to go to the second hand for anything do you really remember it, no…I didn’t think so!)

Go forth and invest yourself wisely!

Fight burnout and stress: Go play!

Fight burnout and stress: Go play!

It is amazing to me how often I hear about the themes of burnout, stress, lack of creativity and innovation, stagnation, etc. from people in business, nonprofit, educational, and religious work spaces. The truth of the matter is, we likely have all felt ourselves in these downward cycles that occur at work from time-to-time (or in some cases, all the time). Why?

Let me detail one workplace that I was in, where this easily could have been the case, but rarely ever was. I worked in college admissions for a small, private, religious higher educational institution. We faced aggressive targets for enrollment, high expectations for student contacts, and the hope of a solid close rate for campus visits. All of these things could have been overwhelming to a group of workers who were mostly just out of college themselves. But it didn’t.

Recently, I have been influenced by a stream of research that has focused on the importance of play. Research by Stuart M. Brown, M.D. points to the reality that play is not only fun, it is vital to our living and working! He points to play, you know that stuff you did when you were younger – before everyone told you to grow up and be serious, as a mechanism that shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul (which just happens to be the subtitle for his book). Dr. Brown along with the National Institute for Play are working to bring about a greater understanding of what play actually does for us as humans (think energy, happiness, creativity, etc.) and this is a very exciting project.

So back to the potentially stressful work environment. How did we get through this? We played. A handful of us had a standing pattern. When stress got high, calls were not going as planned, etc. we would take a break, walk down to the Campus Center and play foosball. Other times, when we were unable to step away we would shoot hoops on a flimsy door mount basketball hoop. Still other times we would engage in word play over the way someone said something in a previous call, or even – when computers were left “unlocked” we might come back from lunch or a break with a desktop background of a cat, or a screen saver of our designated “employee of the month”. This was on top off our semi-regular lunchtime basketball playing and evening euchre games. This could have been problematic, but thankfully during that period of time we had supervisors who understood the benefit that this play brought to our workplace: harmony, energy, teamwork, concern for others, and creativity.

What a realized in those instances, and have recently tried to reconstruct due to mounting levels of priorities, was that play helps. Think about it. The energy you get from stepping aside to play for even a few minutes provides fuel for an hour of work or more, easily. Some people may look at you as immature, a screwoff, or even worse for playing in the midst of these environments, but your ability to stay sane, produce creatively, and maintain energy will be all the proof you need for play.

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So, how can you incorporate play into your work?