February 2012

This is a Morrie “News Alert”! Unlike the overuse of this term by the media (especially Fox News), this is really important. The date of the Executive Education Seminar has been changed. The new date is June 15 – 17, 2012 (one week earlier than the original date). Everything else is the same. Two days of highly interactive “classroom” work, with a group of successful learner-growers, from a myriad of businesses and professions; coupled with an afternoon and evening at a unique ranch that teaches leadership and communication skills through the interactive talents of Tennessee Walking Horses.
The seminar gives you the opportunity to look at your work life from a fresh perspective, allowing you to examine what you do that gets you the results you want, as well as what you do that gets you the results you’d rather not get. Throughout the seminar, this new information is consistently integrated into your personal choices, with the goal of minimizing compartmentalization, and maximally blending in your life. Given the new, post-meltdown culture we are now living in, the seminar offers you a singular opportunity to leverage the key changes, to your benefit as well as the benefit of the important people in your life.
All the vital details, including how to sign-up for the seminar, will be available by the end of the month. Look for an email in the next four weeks that will have all the cogent information. If you want to be sure to get a place in the seminar, shoot me an email and I’ll make sure that you’re on the pre-registration list.
Now that the economy is conclusively in recovery mode, recruiting is hitting its stride once again. (In the past few years, I have never talked with so many business and professional folks who are doing, or are gearing up to do, heavy-duty recruiting. Consulting firms, professional service firms, mining companies, oil companies, health care companies – all are hiring. And not simply a few people, but in most cases, a few hundred over the course of the next couple of months.) That’s the good news. The not so good news, is that the way people are being recruited and assessed, has not changed. And that means mis-hiring will continue to exact a high price.
If you don’t want to continue to pay for your recruiting mistakes, signing up for “Picking Winners and Keepers”, my elearning course, will give you an assessment tool that will change the way you recruit, and help you identify and attract better people.
At the heart of the course, is the “drill down interview”, a method of interacting with candidates that will leave you with no ambivalence about the appropriateness or lack of fit, of the applicant. In a short period of time, you will know who the candidate is, at a surprising level of depth; and will know, with certainty, whether or not there’s a match with the culture of your organization.
The course is entirely virtual, and involves internet based information, combined with telephonic coaching calls. The computer based aspect of the course is highly interactive, and bears no resemblance to the stultifyingly boring “talking head” training, which passes for professional development these days.
The next course begins February 22, and runs for five weeks. For more information about signing up for the course, contact Marcie at:
http://performancecounts.com (select “Our Programs”)
877-659-8847
Arleah’s book is moving steadily toward publication. At this point, it is tentatively titled – “My Beloved Child: My Journey of Recovery from the Death of My Daughter”. Anyone who has lost a child (at any age) through illness or accident, anyone who is raising a special needs child; or anyone who has a behaviorally challenged child, will find help, solace, and support from this book. She has also created a new website – mybelovedchild.net – to share helpful information about loss and grieving, and to begin to create a virtual community of survivors of loss. We’ll keep you posted as to the availability of the book.
Business
“Pretty Woman Syndrome: Helping Good-Looking People Overcome Their Handicap”
A few weeks ago, I was facilitating an accountability group with eight financial services professionals. As people came into the room, I couldn’t help but notice a very attractive young woman, dressed in a manner that was designed to draw attention to her. What was most noticeable, though, was the look on her face, and the general aura of her non-verbal communication. Her face radiated disdain – a look and feel that dripped disinterest and dismissal of everyone in the room. She took her seat at the conference table, looked straight ahead, and acknowledged no one.
I’ve seen that look before. It says, without uttering a word – “I am beautiful and compellingly attractive; I know it and I’m aware that you see it; and I have no time, or interest, in relating to average looking people.” Having spent over twenty years working and living, part-time, in southern California, I have experienced thousands of women (and men) with that look and that persona. I also see it regularly in my travels, and have had many clinical clients with that aura, in my prior private practice.
What’s particularly noteworthy is that these individuals are often, in one form or another, in a people business. And further, they are often struggling and underperforming, frustrated by results that are considerably less than they would like, and way under their capacity and potential.
So, what’s going on here? First, we need to understand what’s driving this behavior. These attractive and handsome women and men are battling with what I’ve come to call the “single characteristic curse”. The key people in their lives have focused all their attention directed to these people, around one characteristic – their physical beauty. They become, then, their looks. They begin to believe that who they are, fundamentally, is this attractive, noticeably beautiful person. The problem is, that this is all they think they are. This limited identity is scary – sometimes terrifying – and leads to a variety of dysfunctional behaviors, all in the service of protection. Whether it’s disdain, arrogance, withholding or opaqueness, the goal is the same. To keep from being hurt and diminished (by being treated like an object), or even worse, to discover their secret – their belief that there is nothing else of value within them, other than their beauty.
It’s important to understand that when we reduce a person’s identity to a single characteristic – beauty, intelligence, athletic prowess, we undermine self-esteem and sow seeds of self-doubt. Instead of building confidence, it erodes and destroys it.
It is hard to be helpful to people battling with this curse, primarily because it requires one to take a big risk. The risk is to muster one’s courage, cut right through the armor of disdain, and tell the person how it feels to be around them. How it feels to be dismissed, controlled (by the lack of any connection) and completely shut out. And lastly, how their distancing armor discourages people from wanting to engage in a meaningful relationship.
Almost every time that I’ve taken the risk, the reaction is amazing. The facial stiffness melts away, and a look of recognition replaces it. The look is an unusual combination of an embarrassed smile (“you’ve found me out”) and a deep sadness, reflective of staying hidden for so long.
When I confronted the young lady in our group with the feelings about her impact on me, she said an interesting thing: “I know that I do that, but I don’t know why.” Helping her understand her behavior can change her whole life, and create opportunities for great success.
Cultural/Political:
“Recovery and Recuperation: Why Now?”
From everything I see and experience, the economy and the culture at large are in recovery from the global meltdown. Almost all the key statistical indicators are moving in a positive direction, and most every business I work with, or I’m aware of is hiring again. Much of this recovery is a result of a miserable couple of years in which many very difficult, often gut-wrenching decisions were made that corrected, very painfully, the excesses of prior generations. But something else is at play, that is driving our recovery. We have been going through a core change in our culture – a “game-changer” in venture capital language – and we have begun to adjust and adapt to our new culture.
When the roof caved in and the floor disappeared, in late 2007 and throughout 2008, our reaction was very polarized. Almost everyone I knew was singing the praises of the new cultural mantra – “What’s really important is family, and the people we care about. All the material stuff is not really that important.” Lots and lots of people went from constant consumption to survival, in what felt like lightning speed. Many people lost much of what they had worked their whole lives for, and many others lost their dreams. No one had an explanation that either made sense to everyone, or made anyone feel any better. Almost everyone had their favorite villain – Wall Street, Fannie and Freddi, State Governments, Unions, China, ad infinitum. For a few years, blaming dominated our cultural conversation. What we didn’t realize ( and what we’re just beginning to discover) is that we’re in the midst of a global grieving process.
Our cultural grieving was brought about by a perfect storm of societal shifts that happens once or twice a century. In this case, it was the collision of technology and information with a multigenerational bloated lifestyle. This collision raised troubling questions about the worth and value of many kinds of work and business practices, as well as numerous challenges to our personal lifestyle choices. I know very few businesses who have not done an intense audit of their workforce, and, as a result, have trimmed it by 20 – 30 percent, and very significantly, are more productive and profitable. In addition, our technology has challenged the brick and mortar legacy of the industrial revolution, and has exploded the growth of virtual enterprises, with radically different business models. This has come about with a high price and much dislocation. Our modes of distribution of many consumer products, have undergone traumatic changes – the demise of book and video stores, for example, and the rapid rise of online retailers (Is there anything you can’t buy on Amazon?).
In our personal life, the two biggest purchases we make – a home and cars – have been undergoing consistent and significant downsizing. Our notion of the necessities of life has been radically altered. If you can access the world through a four inch screen, the need for a huge house and a lumbering car begins to dissipate dramatically.
In essence, then, we’ve been in collective grief for at least four years. We first went through “Shock and Denial” and minimized the impact of the initial collapse of financial institutions – “It’s bad, but it probably won’t work its way down to me.” We next got into our “Anger”, bitterly blaming our favorite targets for screwing up our lives – looking at everyone and everything except ourselves. We then started “Bargaining” – “If we make some cuts in our lifestyle, we’ll be okay.” Then we sunk into “Depression” – “The Country is finished; we’re not far from becoming another Greece.” And now, as we enter 2012, we’re wrestling with “Acceptance”. That is, picking the choice that sucks the least: “My life has undoubtedly changed, but maybe it’s not that bad after all.”
As is true with all grieving, we will cycle through these five stages a number of times. And, hopefully, knowing what’s happening to us will make it somewhat easier.
Personal
“Some Random Musings”
It’s been almost four months since my mother died, and it still seems weird that I’ll never see her again. I regularly drive by the skilled nursing facility where she lived, and died. It’s strange, but I often feel like I should drop in for a short visit. Intellectually, I know she’s not there, but my feelings haven’t caught up yet.
Dealing with the Federal Government continues to be a surreal and infuriating experience. My mother died on September 26th, and within the next month we received notices from the Social Security Administration and VA, demanding the return of all monies paid to her, for the whole month of September. There is, we found out, no pro-rating with the Federal government. If she had died at 11:59 PM on September 30th, they would still claw back all the money for that month. I talked with the staff of one of our U.S. Senators (Jon Tester) who has been extraordinarily helpful on a number of occasions, and they agreed that the claw back policy was one of the stupidest and nonsensical things that our government does. They also indicated that there was nothing they could do about it. This raises an interesting question: “Who’s making decisions, in our government, that affect our lives, and make no sense at all – our elected representatives, or mindless, faceless bureaucrats?
About a month ago, Arleah was out of town, so I decided to get the mail and run the dogs, using our Kawasaki Mule. (The mail run is a ritual that Arleah has done with the dogs for years. It is, without a doubt, the highlight of their day.) We have three dogs – Trigger, a 96 pound yellow lab, who is probably the most beautiful dog we’ve had. There is a regalness about him and a calmness that is very rare. He will often sit near us in a posture that male lions adopt, with his golden coat gathered around his neck, like a mane. He has his own couch in the media room, where he sleeps, on his back, all four legs pointed to the ceiling, snoring like a sleep apnea patient, with his crotch exposed to the world. Marty, an 80 pound black lab mix, is our rescue dog. He probably has three or four bloodlines in him – lab, hound, greyhound, and possibly something else. He is our “wild child”, our free spirit. He lives to run and explore. When we let him out, we don’t know if we’ll see him in fifteen minutes or in five hours. A while back, it became clear that we had a choice to make with Marty. We could put him on a leash and make sure that he was safe, or we could let him roam and explore, and take our chances. We decided on the latter. It we put him on a leash, it would be like draining all the life out of him – and we couldn’t live with that. If predators got him, or he gets fatally injured, he will have died doing what he loves. So every morning that we let him out, we are well aware that it could be the last time we ever see him.
Our third dog is an eight pound Yorkie that we inherited from my mother a couple of years ago, when she could no longer take care of him, and his health was deteriorating. His name is Dimi (short for diminutive) and his job is to keep vigil for Marty, and let us know when he returns. When he sights Marty (or hears or smells him), he barks hysterically and turns in circles, like a circus dog.
When we go to get the mail (it’s a mile and half, and a thousand foot drop in elevation, from the house to the mailbox), Dimi sits in a little dog bed, often partially covered with a blanket; Marty takes off exploring; and Trigger heals to the mule.
On the way back up to the house, I had one of those unique and cleansing emotional experiences. Dimi was cuddled up next to me; Trigger was healing to the mule, clearly in his element; and Marty was running about a hundred feet ahead of us, frolicking like a small child. We rounded a curve in the road, and there was a view that’s usually reserved for paintings. The lake we overlook was framed by acre after acre of dense evergreens, and above them, were the snow covered peaks of the mountains that encircle our valley.
I felt my eyes filling with tears, and started to have an indescribable mix of feelings – a sense of being at peace with myself and the world; and a kind of euphoria. I can remember thinking – “Maybe this is what my religious friends mean by God.”
If I had a religion, it would be about mountains and trees and dogs running free. I don’t know why, but those things fill me with a sense of joy and hope, that nothing else comes close to. I feel privileged to have that in my life and to be able to share it with Arleah, and the people we care about.
Morrie
Posted in Newsletters, Uncategorized

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