leadership dot #3503: injustice

In his TED Talk that has been watched over 53 million times, Simon Sinek shares his story of the Golden Circle and the importance of “starting with why” instead of automatically beginning with the “how” or the “what.” He gives several examples of why switching the order of your message can make it inherently more powerful.

One of the examples he uses is the namesake of today’s holiday. “Why did Martin Luther King, Jr. lead the civil rights movement?” Sinek asks. “He wasn’t the only man who suffered in pre-civil rights America and he certainly wasn’t the only great orator of the day. Why him?” Sinek’s answer is that all the great and inspiring leaders in the world, including King, “think, act and communicate” by first focusing on the “why” in their messages and making that their central theme.

“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here,” King wrote in his letter from jail. “…I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

King’s message is as powerful today as it was when he wrote it in 1963. May it serve to help us become more united as a country by embracing King’s “why” and working to preserve our interdependence instead of posturing to advance only our own cause.

leadership dot #3487: estate

Ah, the day of resolutions! In addition to pledging to lose weight, eat healthier, start to exercise, save money, or any of the other standard pledges, I implore you to make one more commitment and actually stick to it: get your estate plans in order.

As I’ve learned from managing the affairs of my dad, mom, and sister it’s a complicated process even if very little money or no property is involved. The more you can document your wishes, your passwords, your assets, and the stories behind your possessions, the easier it makes it. Take advantage of tools like Apple’s (new) Legacy Contact, Android, or Facebook’s permissions to give others access to your platforms upon your passing. Start with a basic will and both health and financial power of attorney and then build from there. Even if you have a do-it-yourself version, it’s far better than leaving it all up to the State.

Of the three million who died last year, I’ll bet most of them put this off until “later.” Don’t let that be you. Today when you’re full of resolve, pinky swear that you’ll take this task seriously in the coming year. It’s the best gift you can give to your loved ones.

leadership dot #3480: Jerry

Last Christmas Eve, the man behind me in line was buying six boxes of Fannie Mae Mint Meltaways. (For those of you non-Midwesterners, they are delicious chocolate candies that melt in your mouth). I commented to him about all the memories those candies had for me — my Aunt Ruth would bring a box to our holiday festivities every year, the only time we could enjoy such a delicacy.

He insisted that I take a box home.

I had never met Jerry before and the Meltaways are not cheap. He had six of several other items in his cart, so obviously there was intentionality about his purchase. Yet, he sent me home with the box of candies and a heaping helping of Christmas spirit. I saved the box and will savor the memories long after the mints are gone.

I hope you find — or give — some of that same holiday cheer today. Happy Christmas to you and yours.

leadership dot #3462: unknown

Eighty years ago today, the Japanese bombed the U.S.S. Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor, killing 429 men on the ship. Their remains were buried in 46 common graves, marked as “Unknown” as tools at the time did not allow for identification.

But in 2015, the US Department of Defense established a unit to apply today’s technology to the remains of soldiers and Marines, and to date, they have been able to positively identify 361 bodies (84%). It’s a laborious — and fascinating — multi-faceted process, involving historical artifacts, mitochondria DNA, photographs, dental records, and archeology. The unit’s work brings closure to the next generation of their families and allows those who served to be recognized with military honors and a proper burial. The “Oklahoma Project” is reaching its end, but the agency will continue its work with those killed in other wars, with the goal of having no military “unknowns” in the future.

Previously, I’ve written about a prioritization matrix (dot 2021) that sorts projects by high to low impact on one axis and hard to easy implementation on the other axis. The Oklahoma Project certainly falls into the “hard to implement but high impact” quadrant. Sometimes, it’s worth the effort to do the difficult work that matters. On this Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, pause to appreciate those in the identification labs today and those who were in the Oklahoma on that fateful day for doing the challenging yet important service for our country.

Source: Naming the Unknown by W. J. Hennigan in Time, December 6-13, 2021
Film: Inside the Quest to Name Pearl Harbor’s Unknown Victims (8:04)

leadership dot #3460: Santa Paws

If you need a feel-good story about the holiday season read about Scott Arnold, a mailman in Virginia who personalizes stockings for each of the 250 dogs on his route. His Santa Paws delivery includes a newsletter, pictures and, of course, dog treats to celebrate the season with his four-legged customers –something he has been doing for over 20 years.

As you scurry around shopping on another December weekend, add someone new to your list. Maybe it’s a canine friend — or your neighbors, the receptionist at your doctor’s, the friend who lost someone this year, the newspaper carrier, the parking garage attendant who greets you every morning, or anyone who could use a little holiday cheer. The joy truly comes from the giving.

leadership dot #3451: frustrations

Today as many Americans head out for Black Friday, frustrations are sure to abound. It’s crazy in a normal year, but this year with supply chain challenges and short supplies, the crowd could get restless.

In addition to walking out with your credit card and holiday shopping list, pack an extra dose of patience today. It’s not the cashier who ran out of your must-have purchase. It’s not even the store manager who ordered it but didn’t receive it.

Keep those frustrations in check and remember the wise words from Dr. Seuss’ Grinch: “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

leadership dot #3450: pie

When you think of pies on Thanksgiving, two kinds come to mind almost immediately: pumpkin and pecan. If you were in the pie business, you may consider them the clear winner and give up rather than compete against them. And if you only considered this holiday, you probably would be right.

But if you took a broader view, you would see that apple is the preferred pie for most of the nation and so you could reap bounty by offering that on the other 364 days. Or you could develop a niche and leave the “big three” to others, focusing instead on such delicacies as spaghetti squash pie, crawfish pie, Saskatoon rhubarb pie, or ricotta pie — just to name a few.

The point is not to focus on what you don’t have, but on this holiday to be thankful for the piece of the pie you do. Gratitude is the elixir against angst from comparison.

Happy Thanksgiving!

leadership dot #3427: muertos

Today ends the multi-day celebration of Dia de los Muertos, a holiday cherished by those of Mexican heritage. The Day of the Dead has received much more prominence this year, with its own set of postage stamps and many other decorations for purchase. You may have seen the colorful flags or skulls on sale in the Halloween aisle but this holiday is not about tricks. Instead, it is a colorful celebration to remember loved ones who have died and a joyful way for those living to pay their respects.

As we think of honoring those who have left us, I am reminded of a post by @justmadhu: “Everything we say at funerals should be said at birthday parties instead. We leave so much love unspoken.” I imagine you could substitute “Dia de los Muertos” for funerals and the same would be true.

In the spirit of the holiday, take today to bring alive the memory of those you love who are no longer with you — toasting and celebrating their lives and all they contributed to yours. And spend a moment to embrace those who are still among us, sharing your love in person instead of waiting until you do it as a memorial.

leadership dot #3425: treat

There’s a story circulating on Facebook about a group of boys who donned their white shirts, black sportcoats, and ear jacks to dress up as Secret Service men for Halloween. The costumes came about to allow their friend to participate in street clothes — posing as the President — because his religion does not allow him to wear a costume.

It would have been easy to say that their friend “can’t” participate, but instead, the boys displayed creativity in their quest for inclusion. When we want something badly enough, we almost always find ways to achieve it.

Remember these boys the next time you’re ready to be tricked into saying that something “can’t” be done. There is probably an alternative way to get that treat if you work at it.

Credit: Suzanne Paragano Kane #LoveWhatMatters

leadership dot #3417: palm oil

What’s the link between Halloween and orangutans? Palm oil.

Palm oil is the most widely used edible oil, grown in tropical forests that are also home to the orangutans. As the demand for palm oil grows, deforestation is having an impact on greenhouse gasses and the habitat of the orangutans, tigers, and rhinos.

To counteract this for Halloween buy your candy from companies that are members of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (who knew there was such a group?). These goodies are made with oils that are harvested in sustainable ways — treating both your visitors and the planets well.

As you stock up for next weekend’s festivities, don’t get tricked into buying goodies that look sweet but have a sour impact on the forest.

Learn more about sustainable purchasing from the Cheyenne Zoo’s Sustainable Shopping Guide.