The 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge

As today marks the official tipping point of the half-way point for 2014, I would like to cast my vote for the business buzz-word of the year thus far:mindfulness

MINDFULNESS

It has been everywhere. Whether we are talking about corporate wellness plans, or the highly effective habits top CEOs and business leaders, mindfulness has been mentioned, discussed, debated and analyzed more times than I can ever remember. It’s gotten so big, the New York Times has decided it’s time to analyze the backlash to mindfulness. (Leave it to the media to create a monster, and then destroy it all within a year!)

The Times story aside, perhaps it’s time for the rank and file – and me – to take notice. More importantly, I feel like it’s time for me to make a change.

 


 

I’m not going to lie – the last 4 weeks have been pretty difficult. Each week … each day … each hour, it has felt like a new obstacle would be discovered, and at times the dread and despair of having to overcome it would feel insurmountable.

I have come to realize that I am the type of individual that suppresses many thoughts, words, actions and feelings. I learned early in my professional career that if I sit on something for 24-hours (or more if need be), I am usually able to come up with a pretty damn good solution and action plan to overcome any obstacle. More so, I am able to keep my own emotions in check, and have  a rationale conversation with often times irrational people.

Recently though, this has proven much more difficult. I am having a much harder time finding a solution, finding the positive in the negative. This is particularly troubling, because my personality is that of a fun, and out-going individual; but as the obstacles mount, I have turned inward more and more.

The obstacles that have sprung forth in this past month seem to be coming from every angle, some within the professional work I inhabit, and others in my personal life. Now it’s important that some of the obstacles are – when looked at by themselves – minor. However it has been the frequency and sheer number that has suddenly increased of late…it’s isn’t just one problem … it’s 999 problems of  varying size and difficulty.

As a leader (which I’d like to think I am), the stress is written all over my face, and rarely does that inspire confidence in your colleagues or your team.  More importantly, my wife and kids are seeing the difference in my personality of late too.

So, it is indeed time for a change.


 

Mindfulness and LeadershipLast year, I had watched with amusement and then great admiration of one of my colleagues go through a 30-day sobriety challenge. The results and self-analysis that it accompanied, was truly remarkable, As I am not a drinker – at least not like in my college days – I believe a 30 day challenge might be the ticket here, and I will be using the blog as my accountability tool.

Beginning today, July 1st, I will start my day with 30 minutes of meditation. I am not the hippy-dippy type, but if it’s good enough for some of the top CEOs and business leaders today, it’s worth a shot. More importantly, if the results mean I am more productive at work, and less stressed for my family at home, then break out the Tye-dye and Grateful Dead.

To assist in my efforts, I found a great app to use to help me out – called Calm – and it’s a free download too.  So – make sure you pester me here, on Twitter and Google+ to see how I’m doing. I will provide an extremely brief post weekly to share some updates and observations.

Even better – who will join me?

Hello?

Bueller??

A New Beginning: My Last Film Post

So blogging and I have had a unique relationship in the last few years. Every time I think I am finished, the bug starts to gnaw  at my need “to be heard.” (I just can’t quit you!) I’ve been doing a lot  of reading over the past year, and I’ve dressed up the site a bit since you may have been here last.

Little did I know when I wrote the post”The End is Near” did I know that the topic would begin

Cinepolis San Diego

Cinepolis San Diego

the birthing  process of an entirely separate site – familyroomfilmcritic.com – where I will continue my musings on all things film-related, though with a slightly different bent. If you have enjoyed my movie grousings and grumblings here on Perfecting  Naivety, I encourage you to go take a look at the new site. I have a vision for where I’d like to take it…if you like what you see, there are some bigger plans percolating.

In the time away from the blog, I’ve come to realize I want to do something different. With the absence of film commentary, Perfecting Naivety will now host observations in a variety of different areas that inspires me. In my professional life, I am challenged to keep abreast of many industries, yet have no outlet to comment. By now, with the new design elements, you can guess the areas in which I will be commenting:

  • Leadership: In the business – no matter the industry – we have a plethora of examples, both good (Hello, Mr. Branson) and bad (Do I have to say hello to David Sterling?) to choose from, and learn.
  • By day, I am the marketing director of a small career college here in San Diego. The changes that have taken place in Marketing from the time I earned my MBA (marketing emphasis) to today is absolutely astounding, and it shows no evidence of slowing down.
  • In the recent political climate, Education has been a hot topic – particularly, the for-profit sector. I aim to write about the changes to the entire education landscape, with a bent as to how it’s shifting and changing under each political leadership.
  • I am blessed to also be able to help my college launch a Small Business degree program. In San San Diego Small BusinessDiego, 90% of the economy is made up of small business, providing over 60% of the economic drivers here. In a recent survey, Forbes named San Diego the number one city in the country to launch a small business. In the past month alone, the San Diego EDC has recorded that The private sector outperformed by adding 3,400 jobs in the month of April. Suffice to say, there  is a lot going on here.
  • Finally – I wouldn’t be the man I am today without my family. So expect the occasional musing on my struggles to be a better dad, husband, brother, and son.
  • The Film and Entertainment section will stay put, but only as an archive of sorts. I feel like there  are some really good articles in that section, so if someone happened to stumble on a post or two that lead them to follow the new site – bonus!

I hope you like the new direction I am taking with Perfecting Naivety. I am excited about the change and I hope you’ll join me in this new direction. For the first time, I have some modest expectations as I throw a variety of  different topics into the giant Martini-shaker of the blog-o-sphere (shaken, not stirred) to see how it tastes. My hope still remains that you will see – on Mondays and Wednesday – an inspired concoction of the things that make us all wake up each day with a renewed sense of vigor and purpose.

Slainte!

The Mouths of Madness, Part Two – Where was God?

The morning of the massacre, a friend – whom I admire very much – posted on Facebook a comment in response to the mass murder-shootings from the midnight screening of The Dark Knight in Aurora, CO.

Why would God allow this to happen?

I  really took to heart this question of how God could let it happen. I mean to say – I couldn’t shake this question. I couldn’t shake it, couldn’t get rid of it.

I grew up Catholic, went to Catholic schools, fell away from Catholicism and have recently embraced it again – to a certain degree. That is to say – I try to go to church once a week, because it helps me carve out time in an already insanely busy week. This time – just an hour a week – is used to reflect on my week, prepare for the next, and say a few prayers for my loved ones.

I wanted to share a few thoughts with you regarding my opinions on God, organized religion, good v. evil and

Joshua Lott/Getty Images from E!Online

spirituality. Feel free to ignore this too – I will be slightly disappointed, but not in the least offended.

The initial question really bothered me, because I related it not only to the shootings at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight – particularly after returning from a midnight screening of the same film myself, but because upon digesting the question, thoughts of 9/11, family members dealing with Cancer, and a host of other examples immediately sprang to mind. It really weighed heavily on me for the next 48 hours.

You see, it bothered me, because I felt compelled to come up with an answer for myself – and I couldn’t. Then it was Saturday evening, and my wife and kids and I went to mass. As usual, we were late and missed the readings. There was a visiting priest  from Ireland presenting the mass, and as we were seated he was just starting his sermon. He was acknowledging the fortuitous coincidence that the readings were so timely given recent events in the church and in the world at large, from over the weekend.

He then went on to scold, no – boldly cast out those priests who betrayed the families and boys whom they had harmed, linking them to Sandusky, casting them together and – with as much venom as a priest could possibly muster – proclaimed them as scoundrels, absolute scoundrels.

The priest then said something that hit home for me; he said that there is evil in this world. These priests were evil. And the shooter in Aurora CO was evil.

And he said that Evil is a life that was absent of Love and God.

Then he paused. He didn’t tie it back to the reading, he merely said that it was our job to live out our lives with God and Love in our hearts – that is how we could make a difference in this world.

He went on to make more points, but I was lost after that – I had found an answer that worked for me.

For me, this is the most important thing – I have found peace in taking the things out of Catholicism that work for me.

As I read the comments in this post, a good portion of what I saw was an anger in the hypocrisy of organized religion.

And I couldn’t agree more. There is so, so much wrong with organized religion. In man’s hands, it is the reason for so much war, anger, hurt, pain, fear …. and evil – there is a lot to be desired quite frankly. I had these thoughts and so many more when I married my wife. But two things happened when we had countless conversations – one, I stopped judging the priests, the cardinals … the men who run organized religion. It;s not my job – that’s God’s.

The second thing – I made peace with the fact that my relationship with God is mine, not the Church’s, not Catholicism, not Pat Robertson or Jimmy Swaggert or Tammy Faye, not Tina Fey or Jimmy Fallon.

It’s Mine.

And none of them can pass judgement on me, not any judgement that will matter, I am going to do my best to be a good Dad, a good Husband, a good Son and Brother – a good person. And only God will be able to judge if I was good enough.

Everything else – meh. I’m not going to sweat it. I have Faith, that if I do my best to be a good person, all will be OK.

When it comes to James Holmes, and the shootings however, he is truly evil – someone absent of Love and God.

***

The Facebook post asked: Where was God during all his madness?

So, the one last thing I will leave you with is this: in the days that have followed the Aurora, CO shootings, I have heard countless stories of the people throwing themselves in front of their wives, girlfriends, children, and friends when James Holmes opened fire.

From what I have read, 8 of the 12 victims died protecting the ones they loved. There were countless other victims wounded doing the same thing.

It stands to reason that if evil is the absence of Love and God, then these people were Good – full of love for their family and friends they were protecting. Where was God that night you asked? I would argue he was most definitely there that night – helping these folks make the unfathomable, split-second choices they made diving in front of sure death for their loved ones.

I would argue that God was most definitely there.

The Sting – Or How My November Became Movember

My brother is a pretty clever con man. I mean, he really got me this time.  I am subject to the teasing of potentially 364 or more people for 30 days. And I didn’t even think twice until it was too late. He said, let’s do this:

  • Take a picture of yourself every morning within 15 seconds of waking up for the month of “Movemeber” to track your mustache growth.
  • Paste that picture on Facebook, everyday
  • whattaya say?

OK, OK – if I am being fair, er, accurate – I have to admit that this wasn’t a Sting, so much as I completely misread the e-mail and assumed that my brother was joining me in this adventure.  Until I had the following exchange via Facebook, asking him, where is his photo on November 1st:

Yes – indeed – I was in trouble.  But, it’s not so bad. It’s for a great cause actually. What is it? I am now a part of the Movember Movement.

THE LOWDOWN

During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces, in the US and around the world. With their Mo’s, these men raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men. Movember men start November 1st clean-shaven. For the rest of the month, I will be known as a Mo Bro, and groom, trim and wax their way into the annals of fine moustachery. Supported by my wife and brother too I suppose, both now known as Mo Sistas, I am trying to raise funds by seeking out a small donation for this modest Mo-growing efforts.

According to the site http://us.movember.com/?home, ” Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health. ”

WHY WOULD I DO THIS TO BEGIN WITH?

First – Moustaches are cool. I think it takes a certain level of self-confidence to rock one out.  Here’s hoping I can make it work.

Second – My Dad is a Cancer survivor. It was a while back, but I remember the feeling I had when my parents first told me that he had Cancer. For those of you who have seen the recent film 50/50, it was slightly less intense than when Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character heard the “C” word…but let’s just say I could identify a bit more with that moment than I would like.  So this year’s ‘stache is dedicated to him.

Third – how about these stats:

– 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and 1 in 3 women will be

– Evidence suggests that about a third of the 571,950 cancer deaths expected to occur will be related to obesity, physical inactivity, poor nuitrition and thus could be prevented

– 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.

– 240,890 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed and 33,720 men will die

MAKING THE ASK

So – here we go.  This is how you can help – I am asking for a small donation: the price of one matinée movie ticket: $5. I have the hope of raising just $1,000. That means I need two hundred of you to kick in the five-spot.  Think about it this way, this is the price of a $5-foot long at Subway.  Pack a lunch one day this week, and support the cause!

You do so by making a donation at http://mobro.co/danrobertsjr
You can even write a check payable to “Movember Foundation”, reference my name and Registration Number 2075500 and send it to: Movember Foundation, PO Box 2726, Venice, CA 90294-2726

If you’d like to find out more about the type of work you’d be helping to fund by supporting Movember, take a look at the Programs We Fund section on the Movember website: http://us.movember.com/about

So – there it is. I hope you will help a new MoBro out.

The Conflict Within Us All

I am awestruck.

As I sit here trying to put together some sort of rational order to the swirling thoughts in my head regarding Terence Malick’s Tree of Life, I am not sure where to begin.  And I can’t help but think that this paralysis might be exactly what he would have wanted after one’s initial viewing.

So, I’ll start by saying this: a literary critic once identified the seven different types of narrative conflict.  They are:

  • Man against Man
  • Man against Nature
  • Man against Himself
  • Man against God
  • Man against Society
  • Man caught in the Middle
  • Man & Woman

Tree of Life attempts to tell a story embracing all seven.

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation … while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

With the opening shot: a quote from the Book of Job, set to the angelic tones of a classical church choir – and the film immediately takes on a reverent tone. Yet within the struggles of each character is an unconventional questioning of God, faith, the family dynamic, life itself and our place in the grand scheme of it all.

Yet, simultaneously, there appears to be a counter-argument here, that things happen for a reason right down to the molecular level…

I repeat, I am in awe of the scope and the magnitude of this film.  And so it is without hesitation that I say Tree of Life is not for the casual film goer. This is not for the popcorn-munching, check your brain at the door just entertain me movie fan.  If you are that type of person, please avoid this film – it’s just not your thing.

If, however, you are patient, and want to be challenged … if you plan to reward this film with multiple viewings … then by all means, dive in and let the imagery and sounds marinate the senses and soul – after all, these elements are just a few of many things that Malick does so well.

The imagery in the film is still-life stolen from a museum.; the choral music is omnipresent throughout – this is a spiritual process and experience for both director and audience.  I do not think I have ever seen a more spiritual film than this one.  And let me be clear, that by spiritual – I do not mean religious.  While there are some overt scenes that dance around religion, this film truly espouses to be more – and spiritual is indeed what the goal was on many levels.  The literary critic who once identified two elements of narrative conflict as Man v. Nature and Man v. God has gotten it all wrong, Malick might argue with Tree of Life.  In this film, these two narrative elements are actually one-and-the-same.

This is also a story about father and son; and mother and son – and the struggle between this parental tug of war between nature and grace.  This may be the most brutal and difficult theme of the film for me.  One would think with all the heady talk about God, nature and spiritualism v. religion that one could easily lose themselves in the philosophical fray.  But no – the exploration of parenting in this film is what really troubles me most.

I have a son and daughter.  The daughter has proven to be challenging in some ways, but for now, and for the most part, living up to expectations. (Granted, she is not dating – and then I know I will be absolutely out of my mind.)  My son is three, and is the cutest kid I ever have seen.  I have the biggest man-crush on him…his smile and laughter are infectious, and he is at that wonderful time where everything is new, amazing and fun.  My fear is simmering at a very deep level as to whether or not I can prepare him to be a man in a world that still has a difficult time identifying what a man should be.  This fear is echoed in Brad Pitt’s character, the father, Mr. O’Brien.  You see this struggle as evidenced in the different approach with each of his three sons (three! Jeez!) He has the most difficult time balancing a hard approach, to toughen up his children through discipline and physical confrontation, or encouraging the creativity and sensitivity in them while preparing for the reality of what a man is expected to be.

The pure anguish and regret on Pitt’s face in two pivotal scenes it just hits home for me every time I think about it; and, of course, every time I look at my three year old son.

Tree of Life opens the way it closes: with a brilliant flash in the depths of space as the sounds of waves crashing on a beach play in the background. What does it all mean? Everything comes full circle? That God and life has no beginning and no end…?

I am compelled to purchase this film and watch again, and again, and again.  There is so much to take in, and chew, and digest.  I have mentioned to many of my friends before that I believe Terrence Malick is a poet working in film. I am happy that this assessment has never been more true than in Tree of Life.  Like any great poet, Malick says so much without saying much at all.  Dialogue is sparse in this film; instead images and emotions tell the story here.

Conflict rules the day. Conflict is questioned, it is explored, it is celebrated.  And it is a conflict that – at any and every level – is within us all.

[ first photo by Harish-Rao; second photo by Tim Donnelly; final photo by Ha-Wee – all Flickr Photos were under the Creative Commons license] 

A little help from our Friends…

One of the things you will learn about me as the blog continues to grow is that I am a huge fan of Keith Ferrazzi, and his tome on networking, Never Eat Alone.  After a particularly challenging week at the office and at home, I recently went back and read the book again, to remind myself of what’s most important.  What Ferrazzi (www.keithferrazzi.com) effectively conveys is that relationships – at every level – is the key to success in not only business, but in life.

So when a friend shared a recent Harvard Business Review blog-post, Demystifying Mentoring, I could not help but smile at the ironic timing of it all.  Now, according to Dictionary.com, a mentor is a “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.”

And the movies I grew up with give ample support to that idea. Whether it’s William Forrester & Jamal Wallace, Danielson & Miyagi, Gordon Gekko & Bud Fox, or Coach Norman Dale and the Hickory Huskers – the idea of mentorships have long been explored in film.  But the idea of mentoring in today’s business world is much different now. The key takeaway for me was that folks today no longer have just one mentor, but several:

Miyagi and Danielson - the ultimate Mentorship

Myth #1: You have to find one perfect mentor
It’s actually quite rare these days that people get through their career with only one mentor. In fact, many people have several advisors they turn to.  This network can be as large or small as you want, and it may even include your spouse or partner. Sometimes it can be helpful to get a variety of perspectives on an issue you are facing.

The article is a great reminder that the real work we do in life is less about the tasks at home or in the office, and more about nurturing relationships.  You can find the article here:

http://blogs.hbr.org/hmu/2011/02/demystifying-mentoring.html